Deputies and locals prepare for busiest Fourth of July in years

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — According to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, this Independence Day weekend will be one like no other.

“This year, we’re going to see more boaters on the water than we’ve ever seen ever,” said Lieutenant Jerry Brewer. “Simply because of COVID and boat sales are through the roof.”

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Brewer expects waterways to be packed, and up to a thousand people on Masonboro Island Sunday. And with more people, typically comes more accidents.

According to Brewer, “We have a lot of medical issues as far as cuts from shells and things like that. Over intoxication is an issue sometimes.”

Underaged drinking is also a big problem on the island. That’s why this year, Sheriff’s deputies, the Coast Guard, and North Carolina Wildlife will all keep an eye on the island throughout the weekend.

“You know, a lot of people don’t realize that you cannot have liquor on the island,” explained Brewer. “Basically, if you can buy it in the grocery store, that’s what you can have on the island.”

They’re also working with Masonboro.org’s 45 volunteers, says cofounder Jack Kilbourne, to keep the island reserve clean for wildlife and future use.

According to Kilbourne, “It’s important because the state had threatened to close Masonboro Island at one point because of all the trash left behind. We decided that was not a reasonable approach, and we would just eliminate the trash.”

Kilbourne said they’ve hauled in thousands of litter-filled bags in the 13 years they’ve operated. They’re encouraging boaters to take out both island visitors and the trash this Fourth of July.

“They’ve paid somebody to take them out there,” Kilbourne said. “They’ve finished off the beer, and the last thing they’re worried about is carrying their trash off the island to find a ride home. So that’s where we come in.”

With those measures in mind, the Sheriff’s Office hopes visitors will enjoy this weekend responsibly.

“If you come to Masonboro Island, respect it,” Brewer continued. “Pack out what you pack in, don’t drink too much, and enjoy the day.”