Kure Beach Urges People To Stay Off Army Property

Kure Beach Urges People To Stay Off Army Property

Kure Beach Urges People To Stay Off Army Property Featured

By / Local News / Tuesday, 02 March 2021 02:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

KURE BEACH -  The U.S. Army owns a large area of land on the west side of Pleasure Island.

Recently in Kure Beach, the Army cleared a "fire break" area to buffer residential areas from any potential forest fires in the undeveloped "buffer zone".

The Town has received reports of people walking within the fire-break area which could result in MOTSU Police issuing federal tickets and fines for trespassing.

Backstory on MOTSU
The Army operates the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU) on the west side of the Cape Fear River and they are currently working with neighboring local governments regarding land use in the area. The terminal is one of two large volume deep-water ammunition terminals in the continental United States. Operations take place on the other side of the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County and the "buffer zone" occupies a large portion of Pleasure Island encompassing land in both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach on  the riverside of the Island.

The land was taken by the U.S. Government decades ago to facilitate the creation of the largest ammunition depot port on the east coast across the river in Brunswick County called Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point. The undeveloped land on  the west side of Pleasure Island serves as a blast zone, or more peacefully put, a "buffer zone" so as not to alarm area residents.

The Blast Zone serves to buffer the populations of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach from the potential explosions that could occur at the ammunition depot.

In the early 2000's, a fire aboard a ship docked at Sunny Point experienced a fire which prompted officials to call police on Pleasure Island and alert them to the potential need for an evacuation. Fire departments from across the region responded to the that fire alarm including the Carolina Beach Fire Department.

On March 1st, the Town of Kure Beach issued a notice on their website stating, "The Town has been informed and sent photos of individuals walking and walking with their bikes and dogs along the recently cleared Fire Lane that’s runs behind Settlers Lane. This area is Department of Defense property and trespassing is a federal crime with a penalty of two hundred fifty dollars. Kure Beach has always tried to work with and be a good neighbor to MOTSU. Let’s continue that behavior and stay off the Fire Lane."

Sunny Point covers 8,600 acres of land on the Brunswick County side of the Cape Fear River. The Army owns approximately 2,230 acres of land on Pleasure Island and they have concurrent jurisdiction with Kure Beach Police, Carolina Beach Police, the North Carolina Highway Patrol and the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office.

There are areas of the buffer zone where the public is permitted access. The Town of Carolina Beach's Mike Chappell Park is located on U.S. Army property. The Town of Kure Beach has a large park and disc golf course located on Sunny Point property. Carolina Beach operates a waste water treatment plant on land in the buffer zone leased from the Army in the 1970's. The Town of Kure Beach also operates a water treat plant on land leased by the Army. A large portion of Carolina Beach State Park is actually leased by the State of North Carolina from the Army and hosts walking and nature trails.

In the 1990's during the Persian Gulf War just over 450,000  tons of cargo was transported to ships docked at Sunny Point headed for the middle east.

Over six decades, the port has been the major shipping point for every major military campaign including the Vietnam War.

Following a report from a Kure Beach citizen in 2018 about MOTSU Police actions when confronting residents looking for a lost dog in the buffer zone, Clarence G. Lahl III, Chief of Police for Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point explained, "Although I understand Ms. Larrick's passion for wanting to locate and help return a lost pet to its owner, Federally Restricted areas are not established lightly. The Federally Restricted Area known as the "Buffer Zone" on Pleasure Island exists for the safety of the public. As such and to avoid confusion, it is clearly marked as "Restricted" and "No Trespassing" approximately every 100 feet, so that a notification can be seen in two directions about every 50 feet along the perimeter."

Lahl explained, "The Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point maintains memorandums of agreement with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, the Carolina Beach and the Kure Beach Police departments. When there are special circumstances which might require someone to enter the restricted area, those departments are able to coordinate those efforts and receive permission and or assistance in entering those areas. For the incident referenced by Ms. Larrick, the local police agency did not contact us to make any such coordination."

He explained, "Once the individuals were properly identified, and the circumstances were verified, the local police and the pet owner were granted permission to conduct the search for the lost pet. Much time and frustration can be avoided if the local authorities are contacted and coordinate their efforts with ours. We are all proud to be a part of the Cape Fear community and strive to be good stewards of both the requirements of our installation and the concerns of our neighbors. Additionally, we are also glad that Goldie is home safe and sound."

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