State of Emergency: Beach towns respond to COVID-19

State of Emergency: Beach towns respond to COVID-19
The beach at Surf City (File)

SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - Like dominoes, the beaches lining the Southeastern North Carolina coast have moved to reduce crowds and address concerns regarding the novel coronavirus.

The beaches join county governments like Brunswick County, New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington in formally recognizing the threat of COVID-19, and responding.

From Topsail Island to Ocean Isle Beach, the local governments of the area beach communities held emergency meetings Monday or over the weekend to address COVID-19, and either declared a state of emergency or modified an existing declaration.

Some beaches, including those in New Hanover County, have completely closed, while others are only closing public beach accesses and parking lots.

Ocean Isle Beach

At a 10 a.m. meeting Monday, the OIB town council voted to approve a state of emergency that:

  • Discontinues short-term rentals, with those currently renting asked to leave by 2 p.m. March 25, and no new rentals allowed until at least April 6
  • Parking in public right of ways, including beach accesses, is prohibited except for town employees and contractors
  • The community center, public restrooms and all other public recreation facilities are closed, and all group activity applications are suspended
  • Access to public municipal buildings is limited to essential staff and administration
  • Gatherings must be limited to 10 people, including on the beach

Council members discussed the provisions of the declaration in detail, including making sure contractors still have access to the island, and the ability for property owners to ride bikes to the beach. Golf carts, however, will be considered vehicles and must abide by parking restrictions.

Mayor Debbie Smith said she spent the weekend reading the declarations of other beach communities in North Carolina and South Carolina, and believes the OIB provisions to match many of those.

Oak Island

  • Discontinues all short-term rentals on the island until further notice — those renting property on the island for any period shorter than three months are to be out by 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 24 — and no new short-term rentals will be allowed until the order is revoked
  • Urges town residents and employees to limit travel as much as possible
  • Strongly encourages compliance in limiting groups to 10 or fewer people
  • Gives the town manager authority to levy additional restrictions if needed

The following were added in an amendment March 30:

  • All beaches are now closed to everyone.
  • All right-of-way parking is closed.
  • All street end accesses are closed.
  • All parks and recreational facilities are closed.
  • Effective immediately, no new rental occupancies of any kind or duration are allowed.

The Oak Island Pier and Pierhouse are closed until further notice, as did the Par 3 Golf Course Pro Shop. Town buildings and facilities are also closed.

Holden Beach

The mayor of Holden Beach, with agreement from the town council, declared a State of Emergency Monday morning.

  • The beach strand was closed on April 8th; no Easter sunrise service on the beach.
  • Discontinuance of short-term rentals — those with terms under 3 months — until at least April 4, and all current renters must vacate the island by 2 p.m. March 28
  • All public parking areas are closed except for town employees and contractors
  • Existing facility agreements with the town are suspended until further notice
  • All public restrooms and recreational facilities are closed, and town buildings are closed except to staff
  • Gatherings must be limited to 10 or fewer people

Surf City

Town leadership met Monday morning to discuss revisions to the state of emergency declared late last week, and went into closed session as well.

  • Discontinuance of all short-term rentals — those with terms under 3 months — for the next 30 days.
  • All public beach accesses, parking lots and parks are closed until further notice
  • Private property owners can still utilize their beach accesses, but are urged to follow social distancing guidelines of 10 or fewer people per group
  • Encouraging travel be limited if at all possible

Town Manager Kyle Breuer said the state of emergency does not limit access to the island via the bridge.

Wrightsville Beach

Carolina Beach

The town council will meet at 4 p.m. Monday to further discuss its response to the virus.

Kure Beach

Elected leaders were non unanimous in their decision regarding closing facilities, and said they felt their hand was forced by others.

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach declared a state of emergency at a special meeting on Monday at 3 p.m.

Details and restrictions include:

  • Discontinuance of all short-term rentals until at least April 22, and all current short-term renters or vacationers must vacate the town by 5 p.m. March 26
  • All town buildings and facilities will be closed until further notice, and all public interaction with town staff will be done over the phone
  • All public parking lots and right of way parking areas are closed until further notice
  • Gatherings in public places including parks and on the beach are limited to 10 people

Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.