CAROLINA BEACH — Engaging in a beach past-time could land visitors a small fine in Carolina Beach for digging irresponsibly.
Carolina Beach Town Council adopted a new ordinance Tuesday that expanded its restrictions on digging holes on the beach strand.
In the past, the only limit to shoveling “holes, trenches or other depressions” on the beach was filling them in before leaving. The new language of the ordinance limits hole depth to a foot, with a 5-foot maximum width. The change also bans use of shovels apart from toys, defined as “those manufactured and intended for use by children.”
“A lot of times people will bring the big shovels that you use in your yard and dig these massive pits,” Deputy Town Manager Ed Parvin told the board. “Most ordinances we looked at said you can’t bring that type.”
Parvin said ditches on the beach have posed a safety issue the town has been dealing with for years. He said most beach towns in the area have some kind of regulation on beach digging. The new rules in Carolina Beach were modeled on Ocean Isle Beach’s ordinance.
Filling holes in is required in the new ordinance as well and beachgoers must stay within 20 feet of the holes.
Mayor Lynn Barbee said the holes pose a threat to town employees — lifeguards and police dispatched to the strand at night. He added the town has received reports of beachgoers falling into large divets and leaving unfilled ditches that pose risks to sea-turtle volunteers.
Barbee gave one example when turtle volunteers found a hole so large it was being used to store chairs and umbrellas overnight.
“You could put seven adults in this thing,” Barbee said. “I think that’s what we’re after.”
Parvin said the beach is getting more popular every year and the measure is intended to keep people safe. Barbee chimed in the goal is not to collect fines or stop people from having fun. Councilman Mike Hoffer said he understands pining for the days with fewer rules, but the beach is too crowded to let the issue slide.
There was a bit of discussion about whether the change is necessary and needlessly punitive.
Council member Mike Hoffer said he would vote yes as long as the town did not dot the strand with signs about digging holes.
Ultimately every council member except Joe Benson voted to approve the change. Benson did not comment on why he disapproved.
Parking, a second harbormaster
In more new rules, the board approved a new no-parking zone — a section of Bertram Drive, connecting to North Lake Park Boulevard. The change was made at the behest of the Portside neighborhood’s homeowners association because of vehicles parked on the grass by the commercial property on Bertram.
The council was told contractors were using the grass for overflow parking, but the vehicles made it difficult to turn onto Lake Park Boulevard.
The town also approved hiring a second harbormaster. The town has spent more than $23,015 on overtime in the past year to pay its current harbormaster and exhausted its overtime funding for the position in just two months since the last budget was adopted in July.
Parvin said operations at the mooring field have become more complicated: There are more calls about pollution, vessels sinking and being abandoned in the harbor.
“There’s just a lot more going on now than in the past,” Parvin said, adding current harbormaster Larry Denning has to work with more than a dozen entities between local agencies and marinas.
Parvin said the town expects a second position should cover all of the town’s needs with no overtime required.
The move to hire a full-time employee is a departure from the town’s previous plan to hire a pair of part-timers for harbor operations. A staff report on the issue says the town will save money on a single employee compared to part-time.
There is not an exact cost for the new position yet. Staff will bring back a cost estimate after negotiating the hire of the new employee.
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