Public safety officials from Wrightsville Beach, New Hanover County and U.S. Coast Guard met on Thursday, June 19, to finalize the unified command plan for handling the Fourth of July festivities around Wrightsville Beach and Masonboro Island.
Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said his department would operate in four groups on Friday, July Fourth. Two of the groups will monitor illegal water taxiing around the public and private boat docks along the shores of Banks Channel, another will conduct law enforcement from the WBPD boat, and another team will patrol the beach strand.
House said last year his officers were successful in catching boaters attempting to charge for rides to Masonboro Island, beginning their patrols of the boat docks in the morning before peak boat traffic hours. That tactic will be used again this year and House said anyone caught attempting to ferry people to the island could be issued a citation and a $100 fine.
One of the issues of concern this year is the early evening Masonboro Inlet tidal cycle predicted for 7:13 p.m. House said that means the tide will be sucking out to sea through the inlet during the late afternoon hours when people without a boat on Masonboro Island often attempt to swim back to Wrightsville Beach. To deter people from attempting to swim across the inlet, House said WBPD and Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue would park their vehicles at the south end and deploy their lights around 3 p.m.
New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputies are scheduled to set foot on Masonboro Island around 8 a.m. on the Fourth of July to begin their patrols, and establish a processing and first aid station on the island, which will be located just south of first cove. While the deputies patrol the island on foot throughout the day, another team of deputies will patrol the island from the water as well.
There will be nine vessels located either on the south end of Wrightsville Beach, U.S. Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach or the north end of Masonboro Island.
To address the growing number of people who spend July Fourth in Masons Inlet, there will also be three boats dedicated to patrolling the north end area.
House said New Hanover County Emergency Medical Service would not station a unit on Masonboro Island but would be stationed on Wrightsville Beach and at the Bradley Creek Marina extraction point. Any injuries needing emergency treatment that occur on Masonboro Island will be taken to Bradley Creek Marina for a quicker route of transportation to New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
The group also agreed any critical injuries could be stabilized at the coast guard station prior to transportation to the hospital.
Like the 2013 Fourth of July plan, the coast guard station will once again serve as the operations command center with representatives from all participating public safety and law enforcement organizations stationed there.
With the current weather forecast on July Fourth calling for 40 percent chance of rain, House said the only thing that would have to change about the plan is if rain pushes the larger crowds deeper into the weekend.