EMERALD ISLE — The beach driving season in Emerald Isle, currently on hiatus for Easter, will resume Monday and continue through the end of the month.
The town’s strand driving season began as normal Sept. 15 and closes for 10 days at Easter. The season ends annually April 30 because the beaches get more crowded as summer approaches.
As of March 30, according to Emerald Isle Police Department records, the town issued 3,313 permits, which cost $50 for residents and taxpayers and $100 for all others.
In a report earlier this year, Police Chief Tony Reese told town commissioners in 2000-01, when the town’s population was 2,700, there were 400 permits issued. So, while the population has increased by about a third, to 3,822, the number of beach driving permits sold this year is more than eight times what it was 20 years ago.
Handicapped persons of any age, whether they are town residents or taxpayers or not, are eligible for one free permit.
Earlier this year, commissioners considered reducing the beach driving season – an idea that arose during a board goal-setting work session late last year – by a couple of weeks on each end, to Oct. 1 through April 1.
The idea was to create more time between beach driving and tourism season, especially in light of more pedestrian beachgoers coming to town in the spring and fall, not just the traditional Memorial Day through Labor Day season.
The idea sparked a public outcry, however, including a petition that eventually was signed by about 3,500 people who wanted to keep the season the same.
In the end, the board voted 4-0, with one member absent, to retain the current season, but also set up a committee to find ways to educate beach drivers about safety and etiquette in an effort to reduce complaints from other beachgoers.
In the meantime, until the driving season ends, the town is urging permit-holders to avoid driving on the dunes or vegetative areas.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.