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WILMINGTON, NC (NEWS RELEASE) — The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the state Division of Coastal Management are coordinating an increased law enforcement presence for this year’s Independence Day holiday at the Masonboro Island Reserve in Wilmington.

The decision to add law enforcement officers comes after concerns about numerous incidents during previous July 4 parties at Masonboro Island Reserve, which is part of the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wilmington.

“We have growing concerns about the large crowds we see on the Fourth of July each year at Masonboro Island,” said Braxton Davis, director of the NC Division of Coastal Management. “Hopefully, an increased law enforcement presence on the island and on the water will be a deterrent to illegal activities and improve visitor safety.”

During the past several years, unofficial Fourth of July parties have left large piles of trash along at least a quarter-mile of the island, and have resulted in a growing number of arrests for underage drinking, fighting, boating violations, accidents and injuries.

In 2012, local law enforcement reported more than 100 minor injuries and several moderate injuries coinciding with excessive fighting and alcohol use during the holiday weekend. In addition, local volunteers removed about 4,000 pounds of trash from the reserve after the 2012 holiday.

The NC Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve Program protects natural areas for education, research and compatible recreation. Since its creation in 1989, the program has preserved more than 42,000 acres of unique coastal environments at 10 sites along the North Carolina coast.

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