Carolina Beach looking for ways to reduce trash at Freeman Park, other areas

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Freeman Park on the north end of Carolina Beach. Photo by Caroline Curran.
Freeman Park on the north end of Carolina Beach. Port City Daily file photo.

Carolina Beach town officials are working on ways to reduce the amount of trash the town picks up, and they’re looking at ways to encourage beach visitors to pack out whatever trash they produce. At the town council’s workshop this week, Town Manager Michael Cramer presented some options on how to deal with the amount of trash collected, particularly from Freeman Park, which allows overnight camping and produces the most amount of waste.

“There have been some significant improvements as we’ve gone along over the past year in the ways that we handle our waste,” Cramer said. “But most of the waste is handled very similarly to what we did a year and a half ago or more.”

One of the goals, according to Cramer, is to eliminate the need for a waste transfer station. Previously, the town had a transfer station on leased land belonging to Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, until they were told it was not a permitted use of the property.

“From that point we’ve been moving around trying to find accommodations for how to manage our municipal waste stream,” said Cramer.

Last year, the town purchased land in a residential area at 1313 and 1317 Bridge Barrier Road where they built a compactor and ramp system. According to Cramer, there are also 30-yard roll-off containers that are filled with collected trash. While the new facility has increased efficiency in the disposal process, it is located near many homes, which has caused several residents to complain.

“In order to mitigate odor, dust and debris at the facility, we have constructed automated wash down pads at the facility, fencing, landscaping, pest control contracts and implemented daily cleaning of the site,” reads the document provided in the workshop’s agenda packet. “These activities help but do not eliminate the adjacent property owners’ concerns about odor, animals or noise.”

“We have not come up with a creative way to get the trash … off the island without it having to stop somewhere,” Cramer said.

While town officials are still working on a solution for the waste transfer station, Cramer did have some encouraging numbers to share about the amount of trash collected from Freeman Park this tourist season compared to last year.

According to the city report, the town collected 270 tons of trash at the transfer station between April and September of last year. The town estimated that about 70 percent of that, or 189 tons, came from Freeman Park. In the same time period this year, the town collected 275 total tons of trash, with about 137.5 tons, or 50 percent of the total, coming from Freeman Park. This, Cramer said, is due to changes that have been made in the process of trash collection on the north end of the beach.

“We’re now pushing more to have people ‘pack it in, pack it out’ and also putting additional cans and things like that along the beach strand,” said Cramer, who added the town also handed out trash bags to visitors this year.

Cramer said the town looked at several options for waste reduction in Freeman Park in the off season, including removing all the trash cans in the park and requiring visitors to pack out all their trash.

“Although that is a very noble goal, we are concerned as staff of making the cultural change for our patrons that go out to Freeman Park, going from having trash receptacles there to absolutely no trash receptacles and what that would actually entail,” Cramer said.

Part of the problem with going that direction, according to Cramer, is that people would find other places to leave their trash, causing problems and possibly an increase in waste in other areas. Another option he said the town looked at was purchasing several large 30-yard roll off containers that would be hauled off and on the beach, which the mayor and council members did not favor.

Freeman Park's Zone 18 during high tide. Photo courtesy Town of Carolina Beach.
Freeman Park’s Zone 18 during high tide. Photo courtesy Town of Carolina Beach.

“I would have a real concern with having Dumpsters all the way down the beach,” said Mayor Dan Wilcox.

“I’m with him; I don’t want them all the way down the beach,” said Councilmember Steve Shuttleworth. “I think that’s a little much.”

Besides aesthetic reasons, council also voiced concerned about the logistics in getting the containers on and off trailers and onto the sand and questioned why people couldn’t be asked to take care of their own trash as they do in other beach towns and even further south on the island.

“I’m concerned when we have a philosophy that says we would have a hard time training or educating our visitors and our residents,” Shuttleworth said. “It makes them sound like they’re less capable on the north end than they are on the south end or in Florida or in Georgia or other places that don’t provide the same level of beach trash ease.”

“Right now I think we ought to go in that direction and put the crux of the responsibility on the people using our beaches,” said Councilmember Gary Doetsch, who said he had also been to other state and federal parks that didn’t have the infrastructure to deal with trash yet were not full of litter because people picked up after themselves.

“No matter what we do, it’s a learning process,” said Wilcox. “I think we’d all love to have a pack it in, pack it out, one hundred percent [mentality]. If we can obtain that, I think it’ll be over time.”

Given the amount of discussion and the number of areas the town needed to look at, Town Manager Cramer said he and his staff could run tests of all the options and have a detailed document produced for council to look at within the next two months. From there, town officials will hopefully come to a consensus about how to deal with the waste stream and have a system in place before the tourist season begins again in the spring.