EMERALD ISLE — The town of Emerald Isle will open its large Eastern Ocean Regional Access paid parking lot, along with smaller free lots at accesses at Third Street and Station Street, early Saturday morning, Town Manager Matt Zapp said Thursday afternoon.
They will be open to all visitors, despite the town’s continued state of emergency under Gov. Roy Cooper’s May 5 executive order amendment that goes into effect Friday at 5 p.m.
The EORA restrooms and outside showers will remain closed.
The town’s beaches were crowded last weekend before any of the parking lots were open, and Mr. Zapp said Thursday town officials didn’t ask anyone then where they lived.
“We have not and we will not do that,” he said, despite the governor’s stay-at-home order.
The town is expecting a large crowd this weekend, too, partly because short-term rentals are allowed to beginning Saturday and because the governor’s modified order allows some non-essential businesses to reopen with limited capacity. In addition, it’s Mother’s Day weekend, which generally draws a crowd even when the weather is cool, as expected this weekend.
Emerald Isle restaurants will still only be able to offer take-out service.
“Due to national supply chain issues, travelers to Emerald Isle are encouraged to bring necessary supplies with them,” Mr. Zapp said. “These items include, but are not limited to paper products, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and basic grocery items.”
The Third Street and Station Street accesses were already set to reopen Saturday. The EORA was supposed to open Friday, May 16, and is still undergoing some repairs from Hurricane Florence damage, but the town decided to reopen it early to ease pressure for parking, Mr. Zapp said.
The Western Ocean Regional Access is also undergoing repairs and isn’t expected to be ready before Friday, May 22.
Each regional access has more than 160 parking spaces.
Mr. Zapp said denied accusations that the town is restricting beach access to residents only.
“We haven’t discriminated,” he said. “Everything we have done was in respect to the governor’s order. We urged everyone to stay home. We have been trying to protect the health and safety of our community, but also everyone else.”
The governor’s modified stay-at-home order that goes into effect Friday evening still prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.
Last weekend, according to Mr. Zapp, no one who used the beaches of Emerald Isle was cited for gathering in larger numbers or for violating the governor’s social distancing guidelines.
The town did cite 33 people for parking violations, and officials urge visitors and residents to continue social distancing and to obey parking rules.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.