Carolina Beach awarded $4 million grant towards Freeman Park
Carolina Beach, N.C. (WECT) - In April, Carolina Beach purchased Freeman Park for $7 million to preserve the natural coastal environment. They recently received a $4 million grant from North Carolina Land and Water Fund which helped pay off the debt they still owed.
There was once talk of the land being used for a commercial building, but residents spoke up to prevent that from happening, stating that they wanted to leave the natural habitat alone.
The purchase of this land took years of expensive litigation, but in April there was a sign of relief.
Lynn Barbee, Mayor of Carolina Beach, explained how proud he was with the purchase, “For the town of Carolina Beach to be able to preserve 300 acres of oceanfront habitat for the future is a fantastic goal for this town to achieve and we’re real proud of that,” he said.
Now that the debt is paid off, the town can develop a plan of what to do with the land. So far, requests include the addition of walking trails, observation platforms, monument and historical markers, covered picnic facilities, and educational opportunities.
“We are limited to what we can do because it is a conservation area, though we plan to have some opportunity for people to actually see what a pristine environment it is there,” Bruce Oakley, town manager of Carolina Beach, said.
The history of this land is one worth learning about.
In 1855, Alexander Freeman purchased the property and soon established the Seabreeze Beach Resort, which was one of two recreational beaches open to African Americans during segregation in the southeast. In the early 1890s, people would travel many miles to experience this beach resort and it soon turned into a known community.
When Freeman died, supposedly around the Civil War, he left acres of land to his heirs. Over the years, those heirs sold off their portions of the land.
In 1954, Freeman Beach-Seabreeze suffered major damage from Hurricane Hazel. Landmarks were destroyed, blown down, or washed away. The land suffered major beach erosion and its acreage grew smaller.
Eventually, the Freeman’s sold the land to a company named Freeman Beach LLC, which had no historical ties to the family.
Carolina Beach now owns the land and their goal of this project is to have people engaged and educated about the land while still enjoying the natural coastal sights.
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