For local boater Chris Camp, the decision to drop anchor in Masons Inlet is simple enough.
It is the quickest trip from the public boat ramp without traveling through a no-wake zone. Until recently, he could bring his dogs. Most important, the older, calmer crowds provide a more relaxing trip.
“I think people are realizing it’s another nice place to visit that’s not that far away,” Camp said during an Aug. 25 phone interview.
Camp is one of many who anchor more and more frequently on the beaches and sand spits of Masons Inlet. Wrightsville Beach Park Ranger Shannon Slocum confirmed growing interest in the inlet. Slocum keeps an eye on the area, stopping by at least once on normal days, but because the shore north of Shell Island Resort is outside town limits, he has limited authority to the enforce rules as he does on other stretches of Wrightsville Beach.
An interlocal agreement approved by the Board of Aldermen July 10 grants the town authority to enforce the dog ordinance in the area, which is under the county’s jurisdiction. Slocum said that effort is going well.
“We educate people up in that area, explain it’s a $250 ticket and they don’t want any part of that. So for the most part, they put their dogs back on the boat or they find another place to go,” Slocum said.
Beyond that exception, the town cannot issue tickets on the northernmost tip of the island. Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens said he expects that situation to stay the same unless the county initiates a change.
“It’s not in our jurisdiction, so technically, unless we have another interlocal agreement, there are only a few things we can respond to. If it becomes an issue with the county as far as bottles go or drinking, if the county wanted to approach us and create an ordinance, we would address it at that time,” Owens said during an Aug. 26 phone interview.
Slocum said the growing crowds at Masons Inlet do not cause any trouble. He said many of the people there are families looking for a safe, quiet place to drop anchor.
“We don’t get the problems that we would have at Masonboro Island and places like that. If you’re going to go up there by walking, you have to hoof it. It’s going to take a little walk. If you’re boating it, you probably heard about it through the rumor mill from your local PTA as the place to bring your kids,” Slocum said.
David Kellam, Figure Eight Island Homeowners’ Association administrator, agreed that the surge of interest in the inlet has not posed problems on the Figure Eight side.
“They’ve been a good, well-behaved crowd on typical weekends. For the most part, we’ve seen that they pick up the trash behind themselves and we’ve had very minimal incident,” Kellam said during an Aug. 25 phone interview.
Kellam reported some issues during summer holidays like Memorial Day and July Fourth in the last year or two. For those events, he brings in assistance from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.
Kellam said he is glad New Hanover County residents are able to enjoy Masons Inlet following the March 2002 inlet relocation project, which made the inlet navigable and provided the spit of sand on the northern end of Wrightsville Beach. He attributes the isolated problems to younger groups seeking a reprieve from law enforcement present on Masonboro Island during busy weekends.
Owens noted population growth in the county since 2002 as another explanation.
“We have a lot more people here than 10 years ago and we have a lot more boating traffic than 10 years ago. That’s part of it as well,” Owens said.
Camp, an Atlantic Marine sales representative, said the recent economic recovery boosts boat sales and use.
“As the economy is continuing to rebound, more people are getting back into the boating industry. They’re buying boats and they’re able to be out more,” Camp said.