CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Due to the uncertainty surrounding the future of Freeman Park, organizers of a popular event held in Carolina Beach the last seven years may have to relocate next year.
Organizers for the “Carolina Beach Jeep Go Topless Day” took to Facebook on Saturday and said due to the park “having a limited and unknown capacity currently for the immediate future, we have decided to postpone the 2020 event until we know more about what is to come for our beloved stretch of paradise.”
The Jeep event, which was first held in 2012, has become an annual tradition in the Pleasure Island community with nearly 1,000 Jeeps participating in this year’s event which was held in May.
Five weeks later, Carolina Beach officials began issuing the first notices restricting access to Freeman Park due to “increasing tides and regular erosion” to the northern sections of the park. This forced town officials to close those areas to vehicular traffic which limited the amount of space available to parkgoers during several high-traffic weekends during the summer.
The Freeman Park Committee was tasked with reviewing this past summer and proposing recommendations to Carolina Beach Town Council, which has the ultimate say.
Committee members said during an Oct. 30 meeting that the beach is visibly smaller than in years past and managing the space is complicated, as they need to maintain accessibility for emergency vehicles while protecting the dunes.
There are rules in place to protect the beach from what erosion is preventable. For example, drivers are not permitted to drive on wet sand or within ten feet of the dunes. In some narrow stretches, that makes driving legally impossible.
The committee discussed many ideas for managing crowds including: eliminating annual pass sales, adding a distinct ‘disclaimer’ noting an annual pass does not guarantee beach access at any given time, restricting the sale of daily passes to certain days, offering certain times when only annual pass holders may access the park, and restricting camping in the summer months.
No decision was formally made during the Oct. 30 meeting except to sell annual passes at the same rate as 2019. Nearly 8,000 annual passes were sold this year.
The Carolina Beach Town Council wants to hear from people who frequent Freeman Park. There are two public hearings scheduled. The first is Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. and the second is on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. Both will be held at Town Hall.
You can also submit feedback online here.