My Turn Your Turn: your turn on Masonboro Island

By Gary McNair - bio|email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - You really let us know what you think about all the trash on Masonboro Island.

Melanie agrees that we should close the island on the holidays:

"This sort of behavior will not stop, as some people just don't care about anything except themselves."

Ann wonders where the police are:

"It looks like the problem is caused by young adults or even underage drinkers, who typically don't stick around when there is supervision."

We even heard from Jim Gregson.  He is the Director of Coastal Management, the department that oversees Masonboro:

"We are considering many options for addressing this issue.  While we do not want to restrict access to Masonboro Island, we may be forced to take further action if it continues to be misused by large numbers of visitors."

And finally Anna communicated a sobering thought when she told us:

"If they do close Masonboro on the holidays, it will only result in the problem moving to another spot."

That's your turn on the trashing of Masonboro Island.  To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me here.

Emailed responses from viewers:

As a lifelong resident of Wilmington, I have enjoyed boating my whole life.

I have been disgusted by the abuse of our natural waterways and Islands over the past 40 years.  I really am astonished that people are surprised by the amount of trash that is left on the island after a big weekend.  They obviously don't get out or over there much....  In today's "Green Society"

you still can't trust "adults" with adult beverages to do the right thing.

There is little or no enforcement and basically all the Government agencies are overburdened with all that they have already, then throw in all the "Weekend Warriors", and there certainly isn't enough authority to keep control of all areas of our county.  To keep this area beautiful, and keep it a desirable area- which is the reason most people moved here to begin with, people need to be allot more responsible for themselves and keep the area clean, if not for themselves, for their children's children


On July 4, the Masonboro Island National Estuarine Research Reserve was once again overrun with visitors who chose to leave mounds of beer cans and other trash on the island. Fortunately, many volunteers joined our staff in cleaning up the mess, and I can't thank them enough for all their hard work.

Masonboro Island is not a park, but a protected research reserve that provides habitat for wildlife, and is a vital living laboratory for research and education. The state's 10 National Estuarine Research Reserve and Coastal Reserve sites are also available for compatible traditional uses, such as birding, kayaking, and walking.  The activity that occurred at Masonboro Island on July 4 is in direct conflict with maintaining the natural integrity of the site and the research and education objectives of the Reserve.

The Division of Coastal Management is charged with managing the Reserve sites for the state, and it is our job to ensure that Masonboro Island remains an unspoiled habitat.

We are doing our best to protect the Reserve with the resources we have for those who appreciate it and act responsibly when visiting the site. We are considering many options for addressing this issue and we intend to incorporate public input into our decision-making process. While we do not want to restrict access to Masonboro Island, we may be forced to take further action if it continues to be misused by large numbers of visitors with no respect for its value.

Jim Gregson, Director, N.C. Division of Coastal Management


I say keep it open...just ban alcohol on and around the island.  This way people who really want to enjoy this beautiful island will still be able to, but those people who have been causing the problem, probably won't.  In fact, this should be the norm!  By banning alcohol, most of the troublemakers won't be the least bit interested in visiting the island.  Of course we have to be able to enforce the law and all violator should be prosecuted!


I saw your piece on Masonboro Island following the 4th of July Holiday and, like so many others, I was amazed at the level of disregard for such a precious natural resource.  I have also read some of the responses you have received and see the concern we all share for this problem.  Can you imagine the city of Wrightsville Beach or Carolina Beach waking on the 5th and finding such a sight on their beaches?  The outrage would be immeasurable.  I agree with one respondent that"if Masonboro was closed to public access on holidays the problem would simply move somewhere else."  Perhaps we should close the island or perhaps we should officially list it as a protected area and disallow alcohol on or in the immediate vacinity of the island.  However, the real issue here is one of personal responsibility and respect for our environment and such precious resources such as Masonboro and other such islands in our waterways.  There is not enough enforcement of abuses on the waterways and people are not being held accountable.  One respondent mentioned photos of persons involved and how they should be used to identify individuals and hold them accountable.  We are all accountable!  If anyone claiming to love this island witnesses littering and abuse and simply stands by, does nothing and fails to report it or attempt to identify the criminals, they too are accountable.  We as citizens are responsible for protecting our resources and it's time we took that responsibility seriously.


I can't believe that local boaters are the ones creating trash on the island. All of the locals that I know that have been going to Masonboro for 30 years or more love the island and when they do go over they bring their own bags and pick up trash. I personally pick up trash everytime I go over.

I think most of the trash is coming from boaters that trailer their boats down for the weekend.

If you could simply place trash cans w/ liners in the areas of concern during high peak visits, such as fourth of July that would be a big help.

Although I would hate to see trash cans permanately placed on the island ,I think you should consider this during holidays.

I have been taking my children to the island for 20 years and I have been going to the island since 1965.

I hate to hear people flippantly talking about closing the island on high peak holidays. They obviously don't know how much making that the trip to the island every weekend to surf or relax means so much to people.


Our family visits Hugh Taft Island (the east end of Greene's Inlet) frequently and have never seen this type of thing. Maybe if the Coast Guard made a few trips to Masonboro Island and gave some littering tickets this would not ruin it for everyone else.


On July 4th, several of my friends and I went to Masonboro Island for the afternoon.  We had a great time, although it was extremely disappointing to see all the garbage left behind.  Every one of my friends and I took back with us, everything that we brought.  We even carried extra trash from the beach back with us for disposal.  As bad as the trash was that afternoon, and it was bad, I can think of two ways to minimize the damage.

Firstly, Masonboro Island has ZERO trash containers on it.  So people like me that would gladly spend time picking up some trash and disposing of it before I left, could not.  We could only take what we could fit in our coolers and bags.  Having garbage containers on the Island, even if just for the Holiday weekends, may minimize the amount of trash left on the sand, or in the water.

Secondly, how about plain clothes police officers writing out tickets to these individuals who are throwing their garbage around.  The city can probably generate tens of thousands from these idiots, and show them that reckless behavior is not tolerated.  That is my opinion.


Sell five dollar permits where other permits or fishing licenses are sold.  With the permit would come a couple of plastic bags.  Follow up to who didn't clean up could be traced by who bought the permit.


You know I have lived here for many years and the activity on Masonboro over the last several years has gotten really out of control. I just read your online article with some of the responses and Ann was correct...where was the supervision and law presence? I was actually across the waterway from the activity on that small island just due west with my family so I can tell you where the law enforcement was...they were all over the waterway checking boats for violations. I saw them as far south as Carolina Beach just randomly stopping boaters to check for fire extinguishers etc. Now I agree that this needs to be done to ensure safety but on a day like that with all of that activity (drinking & fighting) on Masonboro the Marine Patrol, Coast Guard or Wildlife Office should have posted about 3 or 4 officers on the island to calm things down a bit, instead of just riding by in their boats and looking at the action from 500 feet away, as I saw them do all day. To be honest I didn't see them pull over too many boasters in that area, I just saw them riding by over and over. Now granted I wasn't standing there documenting their activity all day so they may have pulled some.

Anna also had a good point, if you close it down the rowdy crowd will just find somewhere else to go. So closing it down will not solve the problem it will only move it to another spot. More than likely the next spot will not be so big and you will have more boats and people crammed into a smaller area.


A beach town in So. California solved the "dirty pig" littering problem a few years ago. They posted signs saying that there would be a $300 littering fine; ample numbers of trash cans were placed in appropriate places - on the first Sunday, the beach was patrolled by a large number of city cops/employees -they gave out almost 200 tickets; the following Sunday they repeated the action - gave out

about  50 tickets.  After that, the problem just about evaporated.

Hit people in the wallet; they'll respond.  (By the way, the city made sure that those tickets were paid!)


i don't understand why their may be resources that can close access and police such a policy, but that there is not a desire to use those same resources to patrol the island.  the groups that are "trashing" the island won't hang around during the patrols.

in grade school we were told "because of one person the whole class will suffer".  it wasn't fair then and it is still unfair today.  the majority of the visitors to masonboro are responsible and respect the island.  we should not lose our privileges because of the misdeeds of a few, intoxicated, irresponsible people.

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