Tents, Fires, Cause Concern For Town Officials During Tournament

Tents, Fires, Cause Concern For Town Officials During Tournament Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 22 October 2014 04:00

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH  - The Pleasure Island Fall Surf fishing Challenge was held October 17, 18 and 19th and attracted large crowds of people to Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher.
During the event several elected officials were contacted about people setting up tents and building campfires in the 500 block of Carolina Beach Avenue North.
Mayor Dan Wilcox explained he was notified early Saturday morning and when he arrived in that area, "It looked like Freeman Park. Tents, campfires, lighting, generators and extension cords laid across the sand."
Wilcox said people erected tents close to the sand dunes and had their fishing lines draped across the beach to the water causing an obstacle for police patrolling the beach in vehicles.
Wilcox was notified by an email forwarded to him by Council member Leann Pierce.
Wilcox and Council members Gary Doetsch and Steve Shuttleworth visited the area early Saturday morning with Town Manager Michael Cramer.
Wilcox said his concern was campfires mixed with wind blowing ashore towards the dunes and condo buildings creating a fire hazard in addition to Town ordinances which prohibit camping, tents and fires within Town limits on the beach strand. He said that's allowed only in Freeman Park.
Cramer explained on Saturday October 18th, to the Council in an email that, "Starting last night and through this morning many of you have been receiving phone calls, emails and text complaints about fires, camping, generators, extension cords and lights on the beach strand.  The fishing tournament does not have any authority to have any of these activities on the beach strand.  I have talked to some staff and police this morning and many of them have told me that these activities have taken place during this event in the past and have been allowed.  Attached is the letter of approval I gave the tournament organizer to have one 10 x 10 tent (canopy) and one fire on the beach.  The intent was that the activity was to be on Freeman Park and was to be used for their fish weigh in station throughout the night.  Early this morning I was concerned that I had inadvertently given all participants these privileges, but in re-reading the approval letter that is not the case."
Cramer explained, "I discussed the complaints with the organizer this morning and he indicated that he has told people to look on the town website for the ordinances for the beach and to follow the ordinances.  He denied all knowledge of the issues and stated that he was not allowing people to do those activities.  He is also not stopping them.  I have meet with the Police this morning and instructed them to go to every campsite and fire pit and instruct the people that they do not have permission to have fires or camps on the beach.   All canopies must be back from the dunes so that emergency vehicles can pass.  NO FIRES are allowed.  NO GENERATORS OR LIGHTS ARE ALLOWED."
He explained, "This tournament has been permitted for only 1 canopy and 1 fire on Freeman Park for the weigh in station.  That location is in between section 3 and 4 on Freeman Park.   I get the impression that the tournament participants have been allowed certain liberties in the past and have continued to expand from there.  I apologize that it got out of hand this year and may have been out of hand in years past.  The police have been given their instructions directly from me to correct all violation of ordinance on the beach."
Council member Sarah Friede explained on Saturday, " Michael, you don't need to apologize for the tournament's taking liberties and doing things you didn't give them permission to do.  To the best of my knowledge, the tournament has not had permission for fires and camping  before, at least not in the last few years. The only group I remember Council's giving permission for beach camping was the mountains-to-coast bicycle riders in the fall of 2012.  If the fishing tournament took liberties on the beach in the past, word of it didn't reach me.  I find it inexcusable that the organizer told participants to read our ordinances and then washed his hands of all responsibility.  This is not a group that I'm inclined to allow back next year.  I'd like to have the organizer appear at next month's council meeting and account for their collective behavior, just as the organizer of the reggae music event (which we no longer allow) had to do. If the organizer or some other representative(s) won't agree to do that, I think Michael should be given direction to send Brenda an email informing her that she may not approve the tournament next year."
The event was organized by Fisherman's Post - a saltwater fishing publication based in Wilmington, NC.
The event organizers were unavailable for comment on Tuesday October 21st, because they were busy working on meeting their deadline for publication. The event was a success with over $12,000 in cash and prizes being awarded.


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