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Carolina Beach Gets Permission To Use Beach Rake Throughout Year

The Town of Carolina Beach invited state officials to view a demonstration of a mechanical beach rake earlier this month in an effort to get permission to use it more than twice a year. Last week the Town received a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service giving permission for more frequent use throughout the year.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina recieved some positive news last week from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They can now use their mechanical beach rake on a more frequent schedule.
The Town Council voted to purchase the beach rake in September of 2004. The plan was to use a four-wheel drive John Deere 5520 tractor to pull the rake to smooth the sand on the beachfront each morning while picking up trash and other debris such as cigarette buts. The tractor was purchased from Wilmington Lawn & Leisure at a cost of $27,167.00. The Barber HD600 Surf Rake was purchased from the manufacturer (Barber) at a cost of $39,740.00 by "piggy backing" on bids to Myrtle Beach, SC, and Hampton, VA.
Following the purchases, the Town was informed by he North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources they would not permit regular operation of the beach rake and tractor due to the possibility of harming sea turtle nests and shore birds. The Town hoped to sell the rake to Myrtle Beach, SC for $39,740.00 - the same amount it paid for the equipment, but Myrtle Beach turned down the offer.
In 2006 the Town met with representatives from NC Fish and Wildlife and still the Town was only allowed to use the rake twice a year outside of turtle nesting season from November to April. Turtle nesting takes place during the late spring, summer and early fall months.
The Town has a state permit to use the rake twice a year which is due to expire in December 2014. Due to increasing numbers of visitors resulting in trash on the beach, particularly in Freeman Park on the North End of the Island, the Town requested to use the rake once a week in Freeman Park and in an area of the beach in the downtown district.
Freeman Park permits four-wheel drive access to the beachfront for a daily or annual fee. Camping is permitted in certain areas. In 2012 over 8,000 annual passes and 18,500 daily passes were sold with a monthly average of 2,200 vehicles entering the park. For the July 4th weekend, over 3,500 vehicles used the park. The Town picks up trashcans but using the beach rake would allow capturing of smaller items like cigarette butts, bottle caps, etc.
Pete Benjamin - Field Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - explained last week in a letter to the Town, "This letter is in response to your May 23, 2013 request for a CAMA Minor Permit to perform beach raking year-round in Freeman Park and within the town limits near the Carolina Beach boardwalk, and also for the installation of a Hatteras ramp. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has reviewed this request and discussed the issue with Biologists from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission."
Benjamin explained, "The Town of Carolina Beach (Town) currently has a CAMA Minor Permit to utilize a mechanical beach rake twice each year within Freeman Park and along the boardwalk within the downtown central business district, once before the sea turtle nesting moratorium starts on May 1, and once after the sea turtle nesting moratorium ends on November 15."
He wrote, "The Town is requesting permission to rake the dry sand beach weekly year-round to remove trash and pet waste. Specifically, the Town requests to use the rake from the Freeman Park entrance gate, north for approximately 6,000 linear feet to Marker 17. This marker is several hundred feet south of the northernmost tip of the peninsula adjacent to Carolina Beach Inlet. The Town also requests to use the rake weekly between Harper Avenue south to Hamlet Avenue (along the boardwalk) in the downtown central business district. The areas proposed for weekly beach raking include Freeman Park, where beach driving is permitted 24 hours a day, and camping is allowed on the beach. There is often a great amount of trash and pet waste on the beach, and rutting from tires is common. The area along the boardwalk within the Town limits appears typical of other beach access areas. The boardwalk area experiences much less disturbance than Freeman Park because beach driving is limited to emergency and service vehicles, and most visitors to this beach are present during the daytime hours only."
He explained, "No camping is allowed along the boardwalk. For both areas, beach raking is proposed on Monday or Tuesday during daylight hours, in order to clean up after weekend crowds. During the turtle nesting moratorium period (May 1 to November 15), raking would occur in the morning after the turtle nest patrol is completed. Raking is proposed from above the mean high tide line to 10-15 feet from the dune. The Town agrees to comply with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FFWCC) Beach Cleaning Permit Conditions, which can be found at"
Benjamin wrote, "The Town also requests permission to install a Hatteras ramp at the entrance of Freeman Park to reduce/minimize traffic jams and vehicles getting stuck in soft sand. The Hatteras ramp is proposed to be built landward of the naturally-accreted seaward dune."
Benjamin outlined comments and recommendations based on the Town's request.
He explained, "Based upon the proposed size and orientation, and the level of traffic through this area, the Service does not currently have significant concerns for the proposed installation of a Hatteras ramp at the entrance of Freeman Park. We look forward to the submittal of preliminary designs."
Benjamin wrote, "The Service continues to recommend that in general, no beach raking occur during the sea turtle moratorium. This recommendation is to protect sea turtles as well as shorebirds, and other more common beach wildlife such as fish, crabs, and other macroinvertebrates. Routine mechanized beach raking may also contribute to beach destabilization, or enhance the likelihood of erosion."
He explained, "Because of the exceptional situation in Freeman Park (24-hour a day beach driving, beach camping), the Service does not object to a limited increase in beach raking activities. We recommend that beach raking during the sea turtle nesting season (May 1 to November 15) each year be limited to one day a month, plus two consecutive days after each major holiday (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day) as needed. We recommend that the Town be required to comply with the FFWCC's Beach Cleaning Permit Conditions (those for all counties excluding Brevard through Broward and Monroe County), as modified below."
Those conditions include;
A. Mechanical beach cleaning activities shall be confined to daylight hours (sunrise to sunset).
B. During marine turtle nesting season (May 1 to November 15), the Town is responsible for ensuring that a daily sea turtle nest survey is conducted by local North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) permitted sea turtle monitoring personnel throughout the permitted beach cleaning area. Such surveys and associated conservation measures shall be completed after sunrise and prior to    the commencement of any mechanical beach cleaning.
C. In the event that mechanical beach cleaning occurs prior to completion of the sea turtle nest survey, mechanical beach cleaning shall not occur on that beach until 65 days have passed or after November 30, whichever is earlier. The Town shall contact the local NCWRC permitted sea turtle monitoring personnel prior to reinitiating mechanical beach cleaning in that area.
D. Any sea turtle nests laid in the area to be cleaned that do not meet the criteria for relocation (NCWRC guidelines) will not be relocated; therefore cleaning cannot proceed within 50 ft. of a known nest. The nest area will be marked in accordance with NCWRC guidelines and an additional marker shall be placed at the base of the dune or seawall to ensure    that future location of the nests will be possible should the on-beach
markings be lost. Careful hand removal of debris within 50 ft, of a nest is allowed. All equipment operators should be briefed on the types of marking utilized and should be able to easily contact    the individual responsible for the nest survey to verify any questionable areas.
E. In the event that on-beach nest markers are lost for any reason, including vandalism or high water conditions, no mechanical beach cleaning shall be conducted until the marine turtle permit holder identifies the nest and restores the markers. In the event that the nest cannot be found and may have been lost during high water conditions, the Town shall contact NCWRC staff at (252) 728-1528 to determine if mechanical beach cleaning can resume. All sea turtle protection conditions shall remain in effect unless specifically waived in writing by NCWRC.
F. In order to avoid adverse impacts in the event that cleaning accidentally occurs over a    nest, mechanical beach cleaning equipment shall not penetrate more than two inches into the surface of the beach. This permit authorizes the use of a vehicle with a maximum tire pressure of 10 psi and a rake or cleaning apparatus that limits penetration into the    surface of the beach to a maximum of two inches. Box blades and front or rear mounted blades are not authorized. Mechanized beach cleaning shall be accomplished so that ruts are minimized or reduced on the beach.
G. Operators of mechanical beach cleaning equipment shall avoid the dune and all native    dune vegetation by a minimum of 10 feet.
H. Naturally deposited organic materials that form wrack lines at the high tide mark are critically important for beach invertebrates that are the base of the food chain for numerous bird and fish species: The goal of the raking as stated by the Town is to remove    human generated trash and pet waste. Naturally occurring grasses and detritus that accumulates in the high tide line and vegetation occurring on or near the toe of the dunes must not be disturbed. The beach rake does remove a significant amount of naturally occurring material (shells and organics), but with careful operation some amount of natural material will remain
I. Within the Town limits in the vicinity of the boardwalk, the beach experiences much less disturbance because driving is restricted to-emergency and service vehicles only. Although human    use of the beach is likely much higher in this area, the users are less likely to generate trash similar to Freeman Park. Therefore, raking should only be allowed after major holidays (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day) and the Town's beach music festival. Raking could occur for two consecutive days if needed and must comply with A-H above.
The Hatteras ramp will be located at the entrance of Freeman Park. The ramp will eliminate bottleneck situations when vehicles get stuck in the sand and block vehicles entering and leaving the park and waiting for a tow truck to get them out.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said he hopes the rake program will serve as a pilot program that will benefit the environment and beachgoers with a clean beach.