Masonboro Island Reserve survives July Fourth holiday intact
During the past several years, large parties on the Masonboro Island National Estuarine Research Reserve duringsummer holiday weekends have threatened the island’s habitat. Over the years, some raucous Fourth of July parties have left the island looking more like a landfill than a nature preserve, with revelers leaving large piles of trash along a quarter-mile of the island, including hundreds of beer cans, and even beach chairs and tents. Many years see arrests for underage drinking, fights among intoxicated visitors and boating violations. Every year, a group of dedicated volunteers cleans up the trash following the holiday weekend.
The vast majority of Masonboro Island visitors are respectful of the environment, and pack out not only their own litter, but any they find that was left by others. On holiday weekends it seems, a different group takes over.
The Division of Coastal Management and the National Estuarine Research Reserve staff last year began a campaign to keep the island free of trash and limit unlawful behavior. It began with a public meeting to invite input from regular users of the reserve, and also included new contracts with local law enforcement, especially the New Hanover County Sherriff’s Department.
Those measures made a difference this year. The 2010 Fourth of July weekend left the Masonboro Island Reserve in much better shape than previous holiday weekends. Increased law enforcement presence by Wildlife Resources officers, Wrightsville Beach police officers and the New Hanover County Sherriff’s office was an effective deterrent to some of the most egregious behavior. Law enforcement did write citations for underage drinking and for boating violations, but indicated that activity on the island was kept in control relative to previous years.
An effort by volunteers from a local nonprofit, masonboro.org, to hand out trash bags and educate visitors resulted in a cleaner island by Monday morning, with no sign of the mountains of trash left behind in previous years.