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What’s next for Freeman Park? Town Council members weigh in on purchase

Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 3:32 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - For years the Town of Carolina Beach and landowners at Freeman Park have been involved in lawsuit regarding the use of the property. Now those lawsuits are over after the town officially purchased more than 300 acres of land at the north end of Pleasure Island.

“I am absolutely thrilled that Carolina Beach residents now own Freeman Park after all these years,” Councilwoman Deb LeCompte said.

She isn’t alone in that excitement. The park purchase has been a goal of town council for a while now.

“[It’s a] big win, 300-plus acres of pristine coastal environment that will be preserved forever,” Councilman Joe Benson said.

Benson has seen the struggles the town faced with the park, from forced closures due to erosion issues, to the lawsuits and legal fees the town has dealt with. Now, he’s hopeful that the town will be able to restore the park to its full size with the help of dredging performed by the Army Corps of Engineers — and no longer needing permission from property owners to re-nourish that portion of the beach.

“They’re going to come back to us next time they need to dredge, we’re going to grant them an easement and the placement of materials at the pinch point over time should restore the park back to something closer to what it was before,” he said.

The land was not cheap. It came with a $7 million price tag, but that cost has already been offset with money from the town’s beach nourishment fund, as well as some from room occupancy tax. Town Council members are hopeful that they will receive more funding from alternative sources to help bear some of the cost of Freeman Park.

As for the future of the park, town officials say preservation is key, but we could see some additional infrastructure at the park in the future.

“There’s a lot of ideas out there but nothing concrete yet like with the outdoor classrooms. I don’t think we ever want anyone driving on those dunes, I personally don’t. I think we need to preserve those dunes the best we can and the marshland behind them. But I would like to see a small walkway kind of like in our other parks,” LeCompte said.

Both Benson and LeCompte said preservation is a major part of this decision to buy the land, and now the residents and visitors to the island will be sure that no development takes place on some of the last undeveloped land in the town.

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