- Published on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 20:54
- Written by Super User
Sunny weather for an extended Memorial Day holiday weekend brought out thousands of people to Freeman Park on the North End of Carolina Beach.
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - Freeman Park was packed over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Vehicles started filling up the park last Thursday night as people headed to the beach for an extended holiday weekend to kick off the 2014 summer season.
At times traffic was backed up on Canal Drive as motorists waited in line to access the park entrance.
Additional personnel were on hand to warn people in two wheel drive vehicles they could not access the park. Only four-wheel drive vehicles are permitted on the beach.
Freeman Park is historically extremely busy during holiday weekends if the weather is warm and sunny.
Located beyond the end of Canal Drive on the Northern End of Pleasure Island, the park is largely outside of the Town's jurisdiction. They have authority to manage the area as a park. That was granted to them by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners some years ago. There is a fee charged for vehicle access to drive on the beachfront within the park. The Town, by it's own admission, doesn't charge people to walk into the park.
They can only charge for four-wheel drive vehicle access. The entrance to Freeman Park is narrow with two lanes of traffic for vehicles entering and leaving the beach.
During periods of dry weather the sand becomes soft and can lead to vehicles becoming stuck in those lanes causing long lines of traffic to backup within the park and on Canal Drive until a tow truck can arrive to pull a vehicle free.
Earlier this year the Town installed a wooden Hatteras ramp within that narrow corridor to allow vehicles to move more freely and avoid timely traffic backups.
Soft dry sand created problems over the weekend. Even with four-wheel drive, vehicles can still get stuck in the sand especially if the drivers fail to lower pressure in their tires to improve traction. Lowering the air pressure increases contact between the tire and the sand and avoids digging in when the sand is dry. Many vehicles are often damaged due to not lowering tire pressure and placing additional strain on their vehicle engine and transmission. Sometimes that leads to mechanical issues and on rare occasion vehicle fires.
Carolina Beach Town Manager Michael Cramer explained Tuesday, "There were no major incidents but there were tons of people out for the weekend."
Cramer said he went out one day and worked from 6 to 10 with the crews picking up garbage cans. He said, "People were definitely putting their trash in the cans. They'd start filling them up as soon as they were emptied."
Cramer said additional police presence within the park created a better situation for everyone. There were around 50 civil citations issued primarily for infractions such as glass bottles and people clinging to vehicles while in motion.
He said, "This is my first year, but I've been told overall we saw more people and less problems this year than in years past. The additional police presence, additional trashcans and new Hatteras Ramp all helped."
Cramer said the new Hatteras ramp was installed to help prevent vehicles getting stuck within a narrow corridor at the entrance of the park. That wooden ramp ends where the beach opens up. Vehicles still managed to get stuck in the dry sand.
He said, "We could probably build that ramp the entire length of the park and people would still get stuck in the sand at times." He said one idea was to call upon the fire department to use a pumper truck to spray water on dry sand where vehicles frequently travel. That idea has been tried before and the water quickly absorbs and the sand dries.
The Carolina Beach Police Department added additional patrols and a new command post in a mobile trailer.
Police Chief Ken Hinkle said it's his hope the increased presence will promote a safer atmosphere this season by increasing law enforcement visibility and point of contact between officers and the public.
New poles and rope were installed along the dune’s edge from the entrance to zone 12.
A new rubber speed hump was installed at the transitional area, where the wooden hatteras ramp begins.
Sand and vegetation was scalloped away to accommodate a Freeman Park ambassador opposite the Park pay station.
Additional trash barrels and trash trailer were placed in the Park.
New signage was installed in the entry area addressing weapons in the park and urging drivers to maintain slow forward speed at the end of the wooden ramp.
Work was completed to allow for usage of the parking area just prior to the Freeman Park entrance.