EMERALD ISLE — Emerald Isle had a busy weekend, with plenty of day-trippers on the beaches and no major problems, according to Town Manager Matt Zapp and Fire Department Capt. Bill Mathias.
“Despite closure of all public parking lots, playgrounds and restroom facilities, the beaches … were heavily utilized this past weekend,” Mr. Zapp said Tuesday. “My office shared a public service announcement on Friday … in advance of the weekend, discouraging tourist travel. Unfortunately, many citizens across Eastern North Carolina did not comply with the NC Stay at Home Order.”
Mr. Zapp said police didn’t issue any citations for lack of social distancing on the beaches, but did issue some for illegal parking and other violations.
There were 33 citations for vehicles and three for the carts, mostly for parking on private property.
In addition, Mr. Zapp said, there was one citation for littering on the beach and another for an unleashed dog.
Capt. Mathias, who is the town’s fire marshal and ocean rescue coordinator, said five lifeguards patrolled the beach Saturday and Sunday.
“(The) population along the beach strand was above normal and some people were venturing into the water,” he said. “There were no rescue incidents reported.”
The town, Mr. Zapp said, is bracing for the possibility of a big crowd again this weekend, as Mother’s Day is Sunday and the town’s ban on short-term rentals of motel and hotel rooms, vacation cottages, condominium units and campground spaces will expire at midnight Friday. That’s just hours after Gov. Roy Cooper’s latest statewide stay-at-home order is expected to become less restrictive at 5 p.m. the same day.
However, the manager added Tuesday, “Weather is a major factor in predicting crowd size. The current five-day forecast shows much cooler temperatures for Mother’s Day weekend, in comparison to the weather we experienced this past weekend.
“Cooler temps should reduce the number of day trippers,” he said, but “second-home owners are expected this weekend to enjoy their properties.”
He said while he realizes short-term rentals will boost the town’s visitation this weekend, he doesn’t expect full occupancy.
“We anticipate rental volume will increase over time,” he said.
The town’s two small public beach access parking lots – at Third Street and Station Street – will open Saturday morning, coinciding with the expected change in the governor’s order. However, the parking lots at the large eastern and western ocean regional access facilities will remain closed, for a while longer, as they are undergoing repairs of damage from Hurricane Florence.
Officials have said the eastern access could reopen as early as Saturday, May 16, while the western access will likely remain closed until at least Friday, May 22.
The former date is before what Mr. Zapp called the “traditional kick-off to the summer season” on Memorial Day weekend, which begins Friday, May 22, while the latter coincides with that date.
Emerald Isle officials have said town hall is likely to open Monday, June 1 if all goes as planned.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.