Emerald Isle to lift ocean restrictions Saturday; lifeguards to hit beach early

Emerald Isle will lift ocean access restrictions Saturday after backlash from area surfers and others. The parking lot at the Western Ocean Regional Access will remain closed for now, as will all public access lots and playgrounds in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Brad Rich photo) 

This article, image and headline were updated at 4:56 p.m. Thursday, April 16, 2020, with a full report. 

EMERALD ISLE — Town Manager Matt Zapp announced around 4:15 p.m. Thursday that the town will lift its ocean access restrictions – which have banned all but those on motorized vehicles from entering the water – Saturday.

The measure was lifted by a proclamation by Mayor Eddie Barber, who put it in place along with mayors of the other Bogue Banks towns April 2.

The prohibition had particularly angered surfers in Emerald Isle, who Tuesday night started a petition calling on all Bogue Banks mayors to lift the ban, arguing they needed the recreation and surfers were different than swimmers in that they are far less likely to need the attention of emergency first responders.

Surfers also staged a small protest Thursday near the intersection of Coast Guard Road and Highway 58 in Emerald Isle.

One of the reasons for the Bogue Banks mayors’ decision to restrict ocean access was because they wanted to lessen the need for emergency medical service and rescues on the beach.

In a press release, Mr. Zapp wrote, “Emerald Isle residents and property owners will be able to access the Atlantic Ocean for normal activities, including swimming, surfing, kiting, kayaking, and fishing. Residents can continue to walk, jog, and sit on the beach strand. All beachgoers must adhere to the current social distancing guidelines.”

He added that the town will begin limited lifeguard service on the beach earlier than expected, in part because colleges are closed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, making recruitment easier.

“The first class of certified lifeguards will conclude training on Friday,” he said. “Lifeguards will provide limited (roving) beach patrol for the remainder of April. Residents will see mobile lifeguards working along the beach strand in red Jeep Wranglers or official town ATV units.”

In addition, he said, Emerald Isle will also begin displaying ocean condition flags on the beach in alignment with the National Weather Service oceanic surf forecasts for the immediate areas.

Lifeguard activity and coverage will increase as the season progresses and travel restrictions in North Carolina end, Mr. Zapp added.

He noted, however, travel to the town “remains highly discouraged” and all public parking areas, restrooms and playgrounds will remain closed.

 Short-term rental restrictions will also remain in place for the time being. Those are set to expire Thursday, April 30.

“It is imperative that all citizens comply with the ‘Stay at Home’ order issued by Gov. (Roy) Cooper,” Mr. Zapp wrote, as well as “follow the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the NC Department of Health and Human Services.         

“Limit travel,” he continued. “Maintain social distancing of six feet or greater, and limit gatherings to groups of 10 or less.”

He also reminded people to wear protective face coverings, if possible, when in public.


Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.



EMERALD ISLE — The town of Emerald Isle will lift restrictions on ocean recreation and water access effective Saturday, the town said in a Thursday afternoon release.

The public will be able to access the ocean to swim, surf, kite and more, though beachgoers are asked to continue practicing social distancing in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The repeal of the so-called ocean ban follows a petition from surfers in Emerald Isle who call the ban unfair.

This is a developing report. 

(7) comments


Now its magically safe ALL! We have exterminated the dreaded CHINESE DISEASE ! Cnograt's All, FOR BEATING THIS UNCLEAN , UNSEEN , MONSTER FROM china! <----- It really was BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. [innocent]

Buddy Boatbuilder

Everyone who was involved in these bans needs to be removed from their post and prosecuted.


I'm with ya Buddy, IN A FEDERAL COURT! [thumbup] Hang em.


It’s about time they become sane again!


All those in Beaufort need to go as well. Retire Newton for good.

Just a thought

Such a misleading headline! People will read that and not read the article and they will go to the beach. Closing access to our public places is wrong on so many levels. Should we shut down the roads because people are dying in car accidents every day? Life is a risk. Life is terminal. I want to go out living, not hiding.


Finally an educated decision has been made WITHOUT panic at the root!!! Level headed minds will overcome this terrible time we all are facing. There is no need in finger pointing, " It is what it is". Lets all help one another get thru this. Surfer, fisherman, dog walkers, etc... It isn't over yet !!!!

Welcome to the discussion.

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