With the largest crowds on Wrightsville Beach so far during the 2014 season, calm ocean conditions and an extended beach strand provided for few incidents during Memorial Day weekend.
Friday through Monday, Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue received calls for five missing persons, 17 rescues, four minor medical and two major medical incidents.
“We had a really good weekend,” Jeremy Owens, ocean rescue captain, said on May 27. “We had several calls, but it was not as busy as it has been in the past.”
One of the missing persons was a distressed kayaker who was found in the marsh by Lees Cut on Sunday.
“It was packed down here throughout the weekend, and I think that contributes to the conditions of the ocean, it was extremely calm and nice outside,” Owens said.
Adam Brown, Wrightsville Beach Fire Department Captain, said on May 26 the weekend had been relatively slow without any major incidents.
During the three-day holiday Wrightsville Beach Police Department made six arrests, issued 26 citations and issued 86 civil penalties.
Shannon Slocum, Wrightsville Beach Park Ranger, said the majority of the citations he wrote on the beach were for open containers, glass and littering. He estimated he wrote between 15-20 citations each day but noted the beach seemed tamest on Memorial Day.
“It’s just because there are a lot of families out. Everyone is heading back, or people who were here for the weekend might have got a ticket and thought, this is just too expensive to mess up again,” Slocum said on May 26.
Slocum said the ongoing renourishment project demanded more careful monitoring of the beach strand, from keeping visitors off the pipe stretching north from the south end of the island to preventing potential shorebird or sea turtle nesting disturbances.
The biggest issue was an unusually strong current in the water at Public Beach Access No. 43 from the nearby E.W. Ellefsen dredge operations on May 24. Slocum observed swimmers and surfers pulled over a jetty wall toward the dredge. He said the individuals struggled to return to the shore and reported strong suction after emerging from the water, leading to the temporary closure of a 100- to 150-yard stretch of beach.
“No swimming, no surfing, no nothing, just until it was safe,” Slocum said, adding the dredge moved shortly after the beach was roped off in search of more sand.
Slocum said he felt compelled to spend extra time monitoring the south end of the beach, keeping an eye on water conditions around the dredge and the nearby bird sanctuary.
Despite the minor issues, Slocum said extra yards of sand made the active weekend a little smoother.
“The good news is now when people come to the beach, they aren’t stacked on top of each other. It seems to have calmed people down,” Slocum said.
Slocum said he had to leave the beach on Sunday to write approximately 40 parking tickets for vehicles parked on the grass near the parks and recreation area of the Town Hall complex.
“People work really hard to keep the grounds up,” Slocum said. “We posted it and posted it and posted it. We wrote warning tickets. But it gets expensive to do that landscaping.”
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