EMERALD ISLE — Town beach-driving permits went on sale Aug. 1, but because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, sales will be a bit different than in the past.
“Considerable thought has been given to the issuance of permits for 2020-21,” Town Manager Matt Zapp said in an email last week. He said he also took into consideration the beach nourishment project scheduled to begin in town late this year or early in 2021.
The primary change for how the popular program will be administered is how the permits can be obtained.
“To help reduce foot traffic to the police department, permits will only be available for online purchase for the first 30 days,” the manager said.
Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 1, permits will be available online and/or in person at the Emerald Isle Police Department.
“For everyone’s safety, no more than two customers at a time are permitted inside the EIPD waiting area,” Mr. Zapp said. Permits will be available there from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
To purchase the permit online, visit emeraldisle-nc.org/beach-driving.
The beach nourishment project in central and a small part of western Emerald Isle, plus maybe a portion of eastern Emerald Isle, will affect where those permit-holders can drive and potentially how they access the strand. Beach nourishment, because of environmental regulations chiefly to protect sea turtles, can take place Nov. 16 to April 30, which is peak beach-driving time.
“Closures are unavoidable,” Mr. Zapp said. “The town … anticipates smaller/defined sections of the beach to close while those areas are being nourished.”
Potential closure areas include between The Point and the Land’s End subdivision, from the Sea Dunes subdivision to the “dog leg” on Ocean Drive and the far eastern part of town. Authorized vehicle beach access ramps are at the “dog leg” near mile marker 15, at the end of Black Skimmer Drive across from police department and at The Point.
Mr. Zapp reminded permit-holders that driving on primary dunes and other vegetation areas is strictly prohibited.
The beach-driving seasons runs from Sept. 15 through April 30, except for the 10-day period from the Friday before Easter to the Sunday seven days after Easter. This year, that’s from April 2-11.
Mr. Zapp also noted those who purchase a permit must understand there will be no refunds or discounts due to beach closures of any kind.
Annual beach driving permit fees are $50 for town residents and taxpayers under age 65 and free for all residents and taxpayers age 65 or older. The fee for all non-residents of any age is $100.
The speed limit is 20 mph on the strand, but the town wants motorists to drive slower near people on the beach.
All litter must be taken off the beach or placed in trash receptacles. The penalties for violations of the town’s regulations range from $50 to $500, plus court costs, and may include the revocation of the permit. In addition, violations that affect endangered and/or threatened species, including sea turtles and their nests, whether intentional or unintentional, also carry federal penalties with fines up to $50,000 and/or jail time.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.