Emerald Isle to consider increases to paid parking, reduced beach driving season

Under a proposal the Emerald Isle Board of Commissioners will consider next year, parking fees for visitors could be required seven days a week during tourism season and start earlier in the spring at the two major beach accesses in town. (Brad Rich photo) 

EMERALD ISLE — Town commissioners, in a special session after their Dec. 8 meeting, set a number of goals for 2021, including changes in the beach access parking plan.

The goals were set during what Emerald Isle Town Manager Matt Zapp called a “progressive goals roadmap” meeting, which he also conducted last December during his first year with the town.

Before the session, Mr. Zapp told the News-Times the annual session is a chance for the board and staff to look back at things accomplished during the year and to “prioritize some objectives” that can be accomplished in the coming year. For example, in the December 2019 session, the board decided it wanted to improve ocean and beach safety in the wake of four drownings that summer. The goal included designating a person to oversee the program, increase the number and visibility of ocean condition flags on the strand and hire more lifeguards to start work earlier in the spring and work later into fall. All of those goals were accomplished.

The Dec. 8 meeting was conducted via GoToWebinar.

One goal for 2021 is to release a request for tech-based solutions to manage parking spaces in the town’s beach accesses, which are run by the parks and recreation department, headed by Alesia Sanderson. Once the requests for proposals come in, Ms. Sanderson is to submit them so commissioners can pick one to implement at the eastern and western ocean regional access lots for spring.

Currently, the fee is $10 per vehicle per day, and it’s charged Friday, Saturday and Sunday, plus holidays, from mid-April through mid-September.

The goal listed from the Dec. 8 meeting states that commissioners support moving to charge the fees seven days a week, and staff recommends moving the start of paid parking from mid-April to mid-March.

The parking fees pay for maintenance of the access facilities and salaries for lifeguards.

Another goal listed is a change in the time period in which driving on the beach is allowed. Generally, it’s been allowed, with a town permit affixed to the vehicle, between September 15 and April 30, with the exception of the 10-day period from the Friday prior to Easter and the Sunday seven days after Easter.

The 2021 goal states that “A majority of the (commissioners) supports a change in the time period from Oct. 1 through March 15.” Commissioners are expected to discuss the change in January or February.

Another goal is to reduce the amount of contractor-generated debris collected and hauled away from roadsides by the public works department in its yard waste collection program.

Emerald Isle has two collection trucks, intended to pick up yard waste put curbside by residents. Prior to August 2013, residents had to call the town to get yard waste picked up. Since then, public works has been making continuous passes through all streets in the town with a goal of picking everything up within one week. However, demand has grown tremendously in recent years, and the idea of reducing contractor-generated waste is intended to help eliminate the need to purchase a third truck.

As listed in the results of the Dec. 8 goals meeting, the town could “continue to allow yard maintenance contractors to place small piles at the roadside for residential collections.”

Public Works Director Artie Dunn, Planning Director Josh Edmundson and Mr. Zapp are to work on a rewrite of the yard debris ordinance, with the goal of having it ready for consideration by commissioners within the first three months of 2021.

Yet another goal is to work with the state Department of Transportation to illuminate 10 additional trees near the gateway to town, just east of the high-rise bridge on Highway 58.

Mr. Zapp said the board is still working on other goals for the year, most of which he said should be “ironed out” in January.


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

(24) comments


" . . . commissioners support moving to charge the fees seven days a week, and staff recommends moving the start of paid parking from mid-April to mid-March."

The joy of shaking down the locals for money as well . . .


Beach parking fee is a cash cow. Check the town budget - $100,000 slide rule accuracy and that is mostly the western lot. Makes one think, why not clear some more rentals off the beach and create fee parking. Go double deck.

David Collins

Do the residents , not necessarily rental property owners for that is a business venture , people that actually live there year round , get some type of a pass or swipe card ? Why limit paid parking to just a seasonal thing , heck make it a 24/7 365 thing and be done with it ?

Agree that the town should not subsidize landscaping contractors or any contractor for that matter . You takes your mess with you when you leave . Judging from some of the ramshackle trailers I have seen plying the roads be prepared for an increase of the amount of debris scattered about . Going to have to stay on top of that one .


From the EI site: Emerald Isle taxpayers are eligible to receive 2 annual free parking permits for the Eastern Ocean Regional Access and Western Ocean Regional Access.


We islanders get a window sticker for each car that allows free parking all the time. Time to STOP subsidizing the landscapers with free debris removal - or charge a fee just like the town charges us in the tax bill. Fair is fair. Three trucks is a major expense and will cause global warming. I am sure our government will do the right thing.


That is just about right. The low income an poor are always put off due to BIG BROTHER!! What about the mothers that just do put food on the table and wish to treat their kids to a well deserved day at the beach. Or maybe a nice birthday out in the sun. Make it hard on the locals that work & spend their hard earned cash in the town of EI. Then make it impossable for anyone but the upper middle able to enjoy the beach. GEEEZZZZ isn't it hard enuff with covid going on to add more onto them!!!! I'm sure the towns emergency fund is filled to the coffers. how about a free day once a week. MIGHT THAT NOT GO TO SHOW THE GOOD WILL OF EI!!! I ask you to chime in on this and set aside one day a week for MOMS & DADS that struggle with the everyday goings on.


Not sure about EI, but on AB,my reentry pass to get back on the island after a hurricane, is good for parking during season.


I'm not a fan of allowing vehicles on the beach, but having said that, beach towns charge quite a bit to allow folks to drive on the beach. I don't see how that is legal, since they don't own the beach/sand.


From the EI site: Annual beach driving permit fees are $50 for all Emerald Isle residents and taxpayers under 65 years of age, and free for all Emerald Isle residents and taxpayers age 65 years of age or older.

The fee for all NON-Emerald Isle residents and taxpayers of any age is $100.00.

reading tutor mom

I definitely believe resident taxpayers and year round residents should not have to pay at any time. If town needs more revenue, then 7 days a week during tourism season is ok but how about Monday through Thursday, car fee only $5.00 and $10.00 Friday through Sunday. Will this require hiring another person to run pay booth during week? Cost?


Hold on one Chicken Pickin Minute! BEAUFORT IS THE HEAVY WEIGHT CHAMPION OF STUPIDITY, AND WILL NOT BE OUT STUPIDEDED! EI, your going to have to swing harder then that! Here in Beaufort, they may charge people to park in their OWN DRIVEWAY ! <----- the knockout punch..... (oh, wait, they do in taxes, it just does not say parking tax, hahahahahah) See, folks, when your making socialist stew, these are key ingredients. ... ignorant ideas, and stupid people to mix the stew pot! (and 1 hair from a roy "the boy" cooper's mole) Toss pot...


I have no problem with charging for parking but I do agree that there should be a few days maybe Tuesday and Wednesday that are free so everyone can enjoy the beach oh matter what their economic standing.

I am all for shortening the time to drive on the beach. It would be different if they didn’t make huge ruts that when it’s high tide Sand gets washed away. I do recognize that fisherman enjoy bring your trucks with them so they can carry all their stuff fishing stuff with them on the beach. But I’m not opposed to shortening their time that they are on the beach.

As far as brush on the side of the road… When we come down in the spring we have huge piles of brush that doesn’t belong to a landscaper or a paid company... It’s what we home owners cut down pruning and trimming. How will you be able to tell whether It’s a paid company or the homeowner who has put the brush on the lawn? I am not paying to have my yard waste taken away. Well I shouldn’t say that I already do pay it’s called taxes!


I agree w/all of you esp. in that just like Beaufort, it seems like as soon as the area shows any popularity or increase in tourism revenue (mainly due to the millions spent to "attract" tourists here, but that's another topic), the powers that be get greedy and see $$ signs only. There are other beaches/small towns/tourist attractions that tourists can go to. Does anyone realize that the very quaintness/small town quality that is valued by tourists and touted by the tourism board is rapidly being destroyed by greed and lack of loyalty to small businesses and the very locals that work for those small businesses? So many examples, from the Cape Carteret local coffee shop being undermined by Starbucks to the increase in parking fees passed onto locals, many of whom are working in low paying tourist related businesses. I also wonder whether the A Team or whatever they are called that's developing the businesses near Western access are behind the push for increased parking fees. It's a shame that so many businesses in MHC sit vacant b/c of the greed of the owner and the insane rental prices asked for those...such as Hooters, Outback, Applebees, etc.


As I remember, those beach access points were required to be put in, and no mention of PAID parking was mentioned, Because all county residents pay taxes that support the re-nourishment co-pays and if you dident live on the banks there was no way to park/ get to the beach. County residents should be able to use them for free since we already pay.

David Collins

They may well not own the sand mp but they do own access to the sand . Could be worse . In some states private property extends all the way to the mean high water line . Effectively eliminating public access . They do enforce it .


I read this article over again and found that I had missed this:

* "One goal for 2021 is to release a request for tech-based solutions to manage parking spaces in the town’s beach accesses..." - bet this means there will be meters a la Beaufort to try to make more $ from the locals. Also bet that this will cost a lot of $ to put in, thus the increase in parking fees - not just for "lifeguards and maintenance of access" as the article says.

Also, as the county spends 1.8 million to advertise (based on article in this same edition), that $ is taken from our tax dollars instead of spent on the same issues cited here. We are being led to believe the tourism $ will be so wonderful that it'll raise all of our standards of living, yet we are now having to pay more to park and are limited more & more. It is just destroying the very reason so many of us want to live here and making it less and less desirable/

Jackie Gleason

I'm always a little concerned when I see the word "Progressive". The word can be used in so many ways to achieve a certain goal. Let's be clear that Emerald Isle is a tourist "destination". It was not necessarily that way 25 years ago but big money comes in and buys beach front and second row homes and now they are mostly all rentals and that means money. People who live full time on the island are disgruntled at renters or part time owners but without them the full time residents would be living on route 24 or 58 next to the trash convenient centers as their taxes would be too high to adequately pay staff to do their jobs. So whether we like it or not....tourist money rules.

Charging parking fees 7 days a week 365 a year is an acceptable way to generate money giving any home owners on the island free access anytime. While we are at it, $10 a day is a steal for a day at the beach. Maybe $20-$25 a day during the new defined summer months (as proposed by the all knowing Commissioners) and maybe $10 per day in the off season makes sense. This way we can hire as many life guards as necessary and maintain the new electronic parking gear in adequate fashion. Interesting that we think four drownings is too many (our goal should be 0 drownings) but realistically we could hire triple the amount of life guards and people will still go into the water with red flags and even double red flags because last time I checked no law enforcement officer or life guard has fined the "tourists" and their families for being stupid. Again is our realistic goal "0" drownings and where is the study that says hiring more life guards will effectively reduce the drownings? Trust me...there isn't one that exist. You may think more numbers of lifeguards will minimize risk (now that's a good goal) but preventing drownings is usually the responsibility of the educated beach goer.

Limiting the amount of time that vehicles can access the beach is an interesting goal. Was there a study conducted as why the access time should be limited?....was it associated with how vehicles are/were damaging the beach between the old time period? It just appears maybe the Commissions goal (limit the amount of beach access for no good reason other than we want to do it) means that we achieve that goal by limiting the amount of time for no good reason. Let's just change it from October to March because we can.

Goals are great to have when backed up issues/actions or concerns from those who are impacted. Progressive goals usually have no data to substantiate critical thinking or actions. I believe we have two cases of Progressive goals where (1) educating the "tourists" using the beach and fining them for actions they should not be taking can save lives and warn others we take safety seriously (notification on all rental packets etc). This can be done without adding more life guards that requires raising more money from people who may not be able to afford it (ie...day trippers)....how many times have you heard of people going into the water when they should not be in the water and putting more first responders at risk? and (2) limiting the driving time on the beach because we can but even with the reduced time frame we will charge you equal to or more money than in other years....because new can. Now that is Progressive thinking and by all means "Nice Matters".


Allow Darwin's Law to sort out the risks of swimming off EI beaches.

There are faux beach access points all over EI but only 2 or 3 have any parking of any kind. and the handicap parking does not meet the fed requirements. EI is littered with no parking sign. and more regulatory "can't do" signs than USMC boot camp.. No golf carts . No parking. No biking. and on and on. 45 reg signs between 25/56 and Coast Guard Road. None are friendly. but nice matters.

And regarding trash - The King Fish is the land lord for the trash haulers. No direct conflict of interest but refusal would be nice. Most of the landscapers have their own trash trucks, but not all.

As a long time resident, I have watched beach access disappear as beach front development took over. CAMA has allowed this to happen with these silly beach access points that have no parking . So ???

The beach is a public trust??? I live here but never go to the beach - too dangerous.


I own a house on a beach in another area that is a barrier island with plenty of tourism and there are no parking fees at all, they have lifeguards too and the taxes aren't out of control either. I don't buy the idea that the taxes would be out of control either for full time residents, as you just have to do a little research to see how much $ is being spent to attract tourists etc, as well as how the other tax money is spent to see that that's a crock. Year round residents of the whole county pay taxes that are then spent to attract more tourists and yet they have to pay to park and can't benefit from cheaper parking like the EI home owners do. Time for the county to look at who is really contributing to the overall lifestyle of this area as well as consider those who are worker bees in the service industry and then work towards appreciating them as well. Otherwise it'll soon be a have and have not area even more than it is now, with huge beach houses that are rentals and a permanent lower paid service industry that doesn't have any loyalty to the area, with additional crime, ect. Can't keep kicking those who are lifelong residents w/o having some of them kick back.


"For example, in the December 2019 session, the board decided it wanted to improve ocean and beach safety in the wake of four drownings that summer. The goal included designating a person to oversee the program, increase the number and visibility of ocean condition flags on the strand and hire more lifeguards to start work earlier in the spring and work later into fall. All of those goals were accomplished."

Why not station one or two rescue jet boats at strategic points. I see them being trailed to the beach with sirens at high speed during an emergency and wonder why. Time is precious - goal should be 15 minute max to a rescue.



David Collins

15 min would become a body recovery , would it not ? You can’t save someone from their own stupidity every time . Ain’t gonna happen . 4 is an acceptable body count considering the sheer volume of beach goers . The more you attract , the more you will have .


So make it a one minute goal. The point is why not keep the boat on the beach instead of at the fire station??. Respond First - Right


True. There is only so much anyone can do. More people is going to equal more deaths, more crime, more trash & more costs for the county to pay. Kinda seems like it'll be a wash at the end financially if you take into consideration the money spent paying a company to promote tourism, the additional costs the county has to pay because of more people (police, fire, trash, lifeguards, the new computerized program for parking, etc.) and the additional stress on the infrastructure (bridges, roads, etc). Wasn't it just last summer that everyone was complaining about ppl parking in their yards and going to the bathroom and littering everywhere? Seems like the county is tone deaf when it comes to logic & only focused on what they think they will get out of increased tourism personally for those who "run" the county.

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