Fence, fears of change remain at Freeman Park

CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY) – Vehicle traffic is still barred from Carolina Beach’s Freeman Park. It’s a path town leaders were hoping to not have to take.

This all stems from private land owners planting sea oats with protective fencing that town leaders says poses as a safety hazard for motorists.

The town manager said at the park’s committee meeting a group of landowners under the name of Freeman Beach LLC were issued a violation and demanded to remove the fence Monday at 5 p.m. That deadline came and went. Now neighbors worry this may only be the beginning of big change to the beloved park.

“This is one of the crown jewels of Carolina Beach,” said Kerry Wilt who tries to get out on the park at least five days a week.

It’s a jewel that’s in jeopardy in the eyes of those who live on Carolina Beach. Sea oats planted by land owners stretching half a mile down Freeman Park. The oats are an effort of dune restoration according to signs. Neighbors like Wilt see an underlying message.

“It’s not for four-wheel drives and it’s definitely not for camping and beach enjoyment,”Wilt said.

It’s prompted the town to close the park to vehicles and the state Division of Coastal Management to step in.

“It wasn’t in the spirit to what was submitted to the DCM,” said town Mayor Joe Benson.

The Division of Coastal Management gave the owners until Monday afternoon to remove the fence, that did not happen. We called the LLC to hear their side of the story. We are waiting to hear back from their representative.

Town leaders expect to hear back from the state within the next day.
Neighbors like Wilt have a clear solution.

“The plants and all that, they’ve got to go.”

Mayor Benson thinks land owners, like the grass, are digging in. It may be them exercising their property rights, but as Benson told us last week, the town sees the restoration effort too great a risk to the historical public access.

“I’m concerned with the ability of our first responders to respond to an emergency when you’ve got that monstrosity now sitting out in the park.”

Town leaders say the state has several options; they can send a second violation to land owners, issue a fine, or begin a legal process to stall any more work on the restoration.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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