This article and headline were updated at 12:16 p.m. Friday, April 17, with a full report. An earlier version was updated to to correct a typo in the photo cutline.
BOGUE BANKS — All towns on Bogue Banks have lifted their ocean-access restrictions for residents.
Emerald Isle and Pine Knoll Shores officials announced late Thursday that as of Saturday, ocean access restrictions – which since a joint mayors’ teleconference April 2 have banned all but those on motorized vehicles from entering the water – were to be lifted.
Indian Beach and Atlantic Beach officials announced Thursday they would drop the restrictions effective Friday.
In a press release Thursday, Emerald Isle Manager Matt Zapp said “residents and property owners will be able to access the Atlantic Ocean for normal activities, including swimming, surfing, kiting, kayaking, and fishing. Residents can continue to walk, jog, and sit on the beach strand. All beachgoers must adhere to the current social distancing guidelines.”
Indian Beach Town Manager Tim White stated, “We felt it was the right thing to do. Outdoor exercise is listed in the governor's order as an essential activity.”
Beach access parking lots remain closed in all of the towns, as do public parks and bathhouses. Short-term rentals continue to be prohibited in Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach.
In the Thursday press release, Mr. Zapp added that Emerald Isle will have limited lifeguard service on the beach in April, earlier than the normal May start.
“Residents will see mobile lifeguards working along the beach strand in red Jeep Wranglers or official town ATV units,” he said.
In addition, Emerald Isle will also display ocean condition flags on the beach in alignment with the National Weather Service’s oceanic surf forecasts for the immediate areas. Lifeguard activity and coverage will increase as the season progresses and travel restrictions in North Carolina end, Mr. Zapp added.
In his release, Atlantic Beach Town Manager David Walker wrote, “Our summer lifeguard program has not yet commenced. As such, there is NO presence of lifeguards on the beach. We urge everyone to use extreme caution while in the water and pay attention to the warning flags placed along the beach strand.”
Indian Beach and Pine Knoll Shores do not have lifeguards.
The release from Pine Knoll Shores Town Manager Brian Kramer urged “everyone to use extreme caution while in the water and pay attention to the warning flags placed along the beach strand.”
The prohibition had particularly angered surfers in Emerald Isle, who Tuesday night started a petition calling on all Bogue Banks mayors to lift the ban, arguing they needed the recreation and surfers were different than swimmers in that they are less likely to need the attention of emergency first responders.
Surfers also staged a small protest Thursday near the intersection of Coast Guard Road and Highway 58 in Emerald Isle.
One of the reasons for the Bogue Banks mayors’ decision to restrict ocean access was because they wanted to lessen the need for emergency medical service and rescues on the beach.
Although the towns’ releases did not cite the surfers’ protests as a reason for lifting the ban, surfers welcomed the decision.
Doug Starcke, a 35-year Emerald Isle resident and co-owner of South Swell Surf Shop, said Friday he’ll “be in the water (Saturday) surfing if there are waves, or paddling if it’s flat.”
In a written statement, Mr. Starcke, who has emerged as a spokesman for the surfers, hailed their efforts.
“This was a true team effort from local watermen, Carteret County water sports supporters and the local officials,” he said. “We appreciate everyone’s efforts and look forward to the next step of getting the ordinance fixed in writing so our future generations understand the policy.”
He urged “watermen and women” to continue to practice social distancing and cautioned visitors that public parking is still closed and short-term rentals are still banned.
“Do not feed the stigma, be polite, get your exercise and get home,” Mr. Starcke added. “We look forward to seeing our out-of-town family and friends from across the nation once this situation has passed.”
News-Times reporter Mike Shutak assisted in this story.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.
BOGUE BANKS — After public criticism, the communities of Bogue Banks have lifted recreational water access restrictions on the Atlantic Ocean, according to a Friday morning release from the county.
Emerald Isle announced Thursday evening it would lift its restrictions on non-motorized ocean recreation effective Saturday.
According to the release from the county, public beach accesses and public parking areas will remain closed amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
"Residents are asked to continue to follow the flag warnings displayed on the beach and practice social distancing. Please visit the individual websites of each community for more detailed information," the county stated in its release.
Mayors for the Bogue Banks towns of Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, Indian Beach and Pine Knoll Shores restricted water recreational access by those not using motorized vehicles in a joint move April 2. Officials said they hoped to reduce the need for emergency calls to the ocean.
Emerald Isle in particular faced backlash from the surfing community, which said it was being unfairly targeted by the ocean ban.