Saturday, October 1, 2022

Carolina Beach awarded $4 million grant for Freeman Park conservation

Erosion at Freeman Park has led to some changes at the popular attraction but many have asked why the town does not just do a beach nourishment project. (Port City Daily/File)
Carolina Beach applied for the nearly $4 million grant after the town purchased Freeman Park in April for $7 million. (Port City Daily/File)

CAROLINA BEACH — A Pleasure Island town will use millions of dollars from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund to pay off the purchase of Freeman Park and preserve its 319 acres of natural coastal land. 

Carolina Beach applied for the nearly $4 million grant after the town purchased Freeman Park in April for $7 million. 

READ MORE: Carolina Beach pushing forward on Freeman Park land-buy

According to the press release,, the funds from this grant “will help preserve the natural coastal habitat for future generations to enjoy for educational and leisurely purposes.” 

The park purchase also allows the town to work with the Army Corps of Engineers on beach nourishment projects to mitigate erosion.

The deal brought closure to litigation and disputes first ignited in 2018 when the town, through eminent domain, sought an easement for beach renourishment from the landowners, who over the years had amassed hundreds of acres previously owned by the Freeman family. 

Earlier in the year, Mayor Lynn Barbee asked New Hanover County to help fund $3 million of the land-buy, however that request was never fulfilled. 

Instead, in February, town council and the mayor decided to take out a loan from Truist Bank for $3.25 million at 2.3% interest the next decade, with no prepayment penalty. Previous Port City Daily reporting noted the town had $2.65 million in reserves from its “sand fund” plus $1.1 million in room occupancy tax revenues to flesh out the buy. 

Freeman Park has become one of Carolina Beach’s major attractions as it is one of the only beaches in North Carolina that you can drive your 4X4 vehicle on. It is also the site of the former Sea Breeze Beach Resort, one of only very few recreational beaches open to African Americans during segregation in the southeast.

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