CAROLINA BEACH — Freeman Park is one of Carolina Beach’s biggest attractions and moneymakers, but thanks to erosion and high tides, about half of the park has been closed to vehicles and camping.
For the past few weeks, the Town of Carolina Beach has been limiting access to the park, closing access early, and restricting campsites to the south of the ‘pinch point.’
One of the biggest changes that the town has enacted is who they allow access to the park — so far, it has been restricted to annual pass holders only and day passes have not been sold.
“We have limited space and we have had a few days where we had to shut off folks going out there … We haven’t been accepting daily passes just so we can give priority to those folks who have invested in the annual passes but we think we’re at a point where on Monday – Friday we can open that back up,” Interim Town Manager Ed Parvin said.
As far as the camping spaces go, Parvin said he, along with the Police Chief went to inspect the sites recently and they might have to consider combining some of them, ultimately losing more camping spaces.
“We’ve lost area, were losing area on the waterside because the water is encroaching closer to the dunes, and the dunes are growing, so the camping area is getting smaller,” Parvin said.
The intermittent closures can be expected for the foreseeable future of the park as long as the chokepoint exists, he said.
Annual passes for Freeman Park have been steadily increasing in cost each year as the town continues to attract more and more visitors and residents.
During the 2017-2018 year, the town sold 8,180 annual passes, this year the sales were down but still reached 7,082.
Of those passes only 786 were sold to residents in the Carolina Beach zip code, the rest were sold to ‘others.’
Annual passes cost $200 this year with a discount period in December costing only $100.
This year the town sold 6,314 annual passes during the early bird special, coming out to $631,400, just in annual permits sold during that time. Add on those who paid full price and the town made nearly $800,000, just in annual passes this year.
Daily passes will run visitors $40 and $60 during holidays meaning the town is missing out on a significant amount of money by limiting access to the park.
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