Saturday, June 25, 2022

Carolina Beach struggles to keep scofflaws from sneaking past unmanned ticket booth into Freeman Park

Unlike the beach access at Fort Fisher, Freeman Park does not have an automated gate which means people can and do, drive onto the beach without paying for a permit when no attendant is manning the booth (Port City Daily/File)
Unlike the beach access at Fort Fisher, Freeman Park does not have an automated gate which means people can and do, drive onto the beach without paying for a permit when no attendant is manning the booth. (Port City Daily/File)

CAROLINA BEACH — The Town of Carolina Beach has been facing plenty of issues surrounding Freeman Park, from erosion to land disputes. Now, the cash cow for the town has a new issue that could be costing the town potential revenue.

In order to get onto Freeman Park visitors are required to buy a pass; annual and day passes are usually available, although, due to erosion and overcrowding, day passes are not currently sold on weekends.

Drivers can then drive past the ticket booth where an attendant sits and ensures visitors are permitted — but what happens when that booth is not manned around the clock?

According to Town Council members, one of the biggest concerns around town is visitors without passes are making their way out to the beach early in the morning before the ticket attendant arrives.

“Ed [Parvin, Interim Town Manager] … get with our parking company and figure out why there is not somebody manning the gate at Freeman Park at 8 o’clock on Friday, Saturday or Sunday mornings,” Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said during a council meeting Tuesday.

Councilwoman Leann Pierce echoed his sentiments saying she had been approached by a group of people who believe these scofflaws are getting out onto the beach early without paying for a pass.

It’s worth noting that while there is a ticket booth and an attendant, there is no gate, something that could potentially solve the problem very easily. At Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, drivers are also permitted to take vehicles onto the beach yet there is no gate attendant — just a gate that is operated by a keypad.

Pierce suggested having an attendant at the ticket booth as early as 6 a.m. on weekends.

Freeman Park does have a gate that can be manually closed to shut down the park, but it is generally left open so people camping or night fishing can enter the park and leave freely.

When asked about the installation of an electronic gate to help regulate access, Shuttleworth said it was something that has been brought up in the past but has faced resistance.


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