PLEASURE ISLAND — Ask anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time on Pleasure Island about the relationship between the two towns on the island and you’re likely to get any number of responses.
It’s often anecdotes and caricatures: some might say that Carolina Beach is full of drunk party animals, others might say that Kure Beach is for those who enjoy a slower way of life and dinner by 4 p.m.
Whatever the quip might be, there’s no doubt that there are plenty of differences between the two towns — but is any of the sometimes perceived animosity actually real?
The two towns might be close in proximity but there is little that is similar about the two Mayor of Carolina Beach Joe Benson said. If there is anything Pleasure Island is not, it is uniform.
“I think they actually have a curfew over there, of course, it changes with the time of the sunset,” Benson joked when asked about the two seemingly similar town’s juxtaposition.
All jokes aside, the two towns, on the governmental level, have a good working relationship, he said. When it comes down to important issues or impending storms during hurricane season, the two towns work incredibly well together.
Mayor of Kure Beach Craig Bloszinsky shared a similar sentiment about the two towns, and perhaps in Kure Beach fashion, took a more serious approach to address any perceived animosity between the two.
“Carolina Beach and Kure Beach are neighbors. We depend on each other and at the government level I know we have a good relationship, as well as individually and as Councils and Staff. On Beaches, ROT, storms, police and fire support and shared services we work as a team,” Blosinsky said.
But he did admit the neighboring beach towns do have their differences.
“Like most neighbors, there are some differences in the towns and we each pursue remedies that we believe are best for our citizens at the budget available. At an individual level, people may have positions on certain things but I am not familiar with or have seen any large or pervasive hostility in the communities. In many cases you do what you can to make most of the citizens comfortable, safe and positive,” he said.
And While Blosinsky was seemingly unaware of perceived tensions between the towns, during the 2017 candidates forum and debate, candidates were quick to scoff at their neighbors to the north.
“Don’t get me started with consolidation … if you want to talk about the differences between us you need to go talk to Carolina Beach first … we’re not doing anything just because Carolina Beach does it,” former Mayor Emilie Swearingen said when asked her opinion on consolidating the two towns.
2017 Kure Beach Council candidate Jerry Dockery was more than willing to acknowledge the friendly rivalry between the two at the debate.
“My father is dead. When he was alive I wasn’t allowed to go to Carolina Beach,” Dockery said (jokingly).
Opposite sides of the spectrum
Despite the proximity of the two towns and the relatively small geographical area of Pleasure Island, visitors are unlikely to mistake the two towns. In Kure Beach, residences line the streets with some businesses, most of which are located in the business district.
Carolina Beach, on the other hand, welcomes visitors to the island with shopping centers, grocery stores (plural, finally), a bagel shop, and of course, a quirky doughnut shop — all within the first half-mile onto the island.
Souvenir stores offer kitsch knickknacks, Confederate Flag towels, and of course saltwater taffy. At the Boardwalk, festivities abound with fireworks in the summer and carnival rides. Kure Beach does have its own pier and business district but when compared to Carolina Beach, the differences in the towns are clear.
But its more than just a commercial versus residential vibe that separates the towns, town leaders and residents have disagreed on plenty of topics, which, has led to some confusion.
For example, you’re unlikely to head to Carolina Beach on a warm day and not get stuck behind a golf cart cruising down Lake Park Boulevard. That’s because the town has taken an overwhelmingly friendly approach to the slow-moving vehicles. But don’t plan on taking your carting to Kure Beach.
Unless a golf cart is ‘street-legal’ and registered with the NCDOT meaning it has a license plate etc, golf carts are banned from the town.
There has been discussion on the topic and while plenty of Carolina Beach residents and visitors would like to be able to drive all the way across the island, Kure Beach has not yet loosened their restrictions.
There’s also the more conservative attitude the Town of Kure Beach has taken, particularly when it comes to telling beachgoers what they should wear. Kure Beach has maintained its ban on thong bikinis while just this summer, Carolina Beach re-wrote its public nudity laws to exclude the word ‘buttocks’ in order to ensure vacationers can dress how they want.
At the end of the day, the differences are clear between the two beach towns, but that is part of what makes Pleasure Island so special, Benson said. Of course, the two towns do rely on each other as well, he said.
Kure Beach residents help support business in Carolina Beach, especially during the offseason, and Carolina Beach offers goods and services without having to leave the island.
When it comes down to the important issues, most specifically, public safety issues, the towns come together to make sure residents are safe, but as Bloszinsky said, all neighbors have their differences.
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