Sunday, May 22, 2022

Carolina Beach councilman answers the question, ‘Why not renourish Freeman Park?’

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)
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 — It’s a common suggestion by both residents and visitors to Carolina Beach when they see the erosion issues facing the beach town — why doesn’t the town just do beach nourishment at the north side of the island?

Well, it’s certainly not from a lack of want; instead, it’s all about getting permission to do so, which, is no easy task.

The Town of Carolina Beach recently approved several new changes for Freeman Park including limiting camping during the busy season and the price of day passes in the off-season. But these changes were largely in reaction to deteriorating conditions at the park from erosion and overcrowding which begs the question if the town can add sand to municipal beaches, can’t they just increase the scope of the next project?

Why not renourish Freeman Park?

While, technically, yes it is possible, practically, a beach nourishment project apparently just isn’t going to happen at Freeman Park. Carolina Beach Town Councilman Steve Shuttleworth helped explain the reasoning behind the town’s inability to actually build up the beach.

“Historically, we have occasionally seen sand placed on Freeman Park and it has come primarily from a Corps (US Army Corps of Engineers, USACE) project when they dredge the Intracoastal Waterway crossing with Carolina Beach,” he said.

The USACE has recently started requiring easements in order to conduct any beach nourishment projects. But anyone following along with the legal battle between the Town and private property owners at Freeman Park knows the chance of them granting the town permission to use their land is not likely.

Shuttleworth said the Corps has approached the town to reach out to the private property owners to ask for an easement that would allow the renourishment of part of the park, but so far, they have been unwilling to do so.

But if property owners change their minds, there is a possibility of it happening.

“Our normal erosion rate during a three-year period is about 180,000 cubic yards. In this past section, prior to Florence, we lost 350,000 cubic yards and a lot of it was in that section,” Shuttleworth said.

So why is it different than the town’s beach nourishment projects that take place every three years? According to Shuttleworth, that beach nourishment project is part of a federally regulated permit the town has held for decades — but it does not cover the north end of the beach.

“That [the federal dredging project] historically has placed sand just a little north of the pier … from there south all the way to Kure Beach,” he said.

There has also been a change in where the town is able to get sand from for these beach projects.

Typically, the town got its sand from the inlet area just north of Freeman Park and would pump it down the beach. But apparently the Department of the Interior (DOI) has stopped the town from acquiring sand from that ‘hole’ instead making them head offshore to get sand from an ‘offshore borrow site.’

This too could change though, according to Shuttleworth, the USACE has reached an agreement with the DOI allowing them to once again use the sand from the inlet area. This is, of course, all dependant on the town obtaining a new permit to continue its beach nourishment projects every three years since the permit the town was issued 59 years ago is expired.

Essentially, neither the town nor New Hanover County holds any permits allowing them to replenish the sand at Freeman Park, he said.

“The process to get a permit to put sand in that area, while I would not say it’s impossible, it would really be a long shot — longer than getting to Mars. It’s in an inlet hazard zone, it’s got all sorts of designations on it that the Corps, Fish and Wildlife, Department of Marine Fisheries, and all the federal agencies say you have no business replenishing sand in that very volatile area because it is so close to the inlet and it’s what erodes all the time,” Shuttleworth said.


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