preliminary 3-2 decision to prohibit surfing and swimming within 200 feet of
commercial fishing piers, in the second reading of the ordinance the
Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen voted 4-1 to increase the length to 350
feet for surfers and keep the 200-foot restriction for swimmers. Mayor Pro Tem
Bill Sisson and alderman Darryl Mills, who originally voted for the 200-foot
restriction at the board’s April meeting, changed their position to join
aldermen Susan Collins and Elizabeth King in voting for the new tiered
As he did in the
previous meeting, Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti deferred to
Wrightsville Beach Fire Chief Frank Smith and ocean rescue director Dave Baker,
who said the 200-foot restrictions for both would be the safest for everyone
and the most feasible for the Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue staff.
owner and operator of Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, led the board’s Thursday, May 9,
meeting in the public comment segment by calling for more separation of surfers
and swimmers from the pier.
restriction, which is being endorsed by ocean rescue, is too close and has
caused conflict with surfers, swimmers and fishermen for more than three
years,” Johnson said. “It is a bad idea and is not safe.”
considering the subject further after his vote at the April meeting, Sisson
said he believed it should be bigger to send a message to surfers who continually
disregard the restrictions.
“They are not
paying attention to the lifeguards who try to whistle them out of the zone and
they are just going to do what they want to no matter what,” Sisson said.
“Those people need to be controlled because they are presenting a danger, not
only to themselves if they get tangled up in something but to the swimmers as
In addition to wanting
a larger restricted area, Sisson said he would also like to see two different
distance restrictions for swimmers and surfers with the swimming restriction
being smaller. However, Smith and Baker said the existing tiered system has
“The locals get
it mostly … but especially in the Mercer’s pier area we are dealing with folks
from all over the place,” Smith said. “Everybody wants consistent enforcement …
I really do believe that if we could agree on one distance with one marker and
say you stay outside of that regardless it would help us get to that uniform
Collins said she would like to see separate distance to provide a stretch of
beach just for swimmers after the summer surf zones end every day when
lifeguards leave their stands at 5 p.m.
“I’m hearing you
but I am remembering back in 2005 when the [surf zone] committee met that the
mission was to have a plan worked out for surfers, swimmers and fishermen to
suit all recreational activities,” Collins said. “I am concerned about the
swimmers … it is not safe for me to swim where surfers are surfing.”
Tim Owens, said another option for marking the boundaries would be to anchor
buoys in the water in front of the no surfing poles to be placed on the beach,
which he felt comfortable would work.
motion he included the installation of these buoy markers at both piers and
with the requirement for the board of aldermen to review how the ordinance worked
after the summer season.