The members of the Masonboro Island Reserve Local Advisory Committee spent 45 minutes discussing ways to improve transparency and availability of information to the board of the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve.
The discussion began during the quarterly meeting on Monday, Dec. 9, after Rebecca Ellin, manager of the North Carolina Coastal Reserve Program, said there has been a $35,000 reduction in the budget due to a reduction in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funding. On the state side, Ellin said the funding has remained level. The total budget is $877,653.
Richard Johnson, one of the founders of Masonboro.org, asked if there would be a handout with reserve projects and a breakdown of funding.
“In the role of advisors, it’s hard to have a complete picture without those two things,” Johnson said.
Ellin said she would work on gathering the budget information for members since it comes from multiple funding sources.
The committee, which serves in an advisory capacity, will also address the idea of work groups during the next meeting to offer deeper looks into certain aspects of the reserve, such as education.
During an old agenda item, the committee discussed the 2013 July Fourth holiday on Masonboro Island, which many members said was significantly better than previous years due to a few factors, including law enforcement agencies setting up a command post at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach.
“We increased our manpower that we put out there,” said Lieutenant Matt Payne of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. “… We actually did transport eight or nine people off the island.”
Johnson mentioned the 35 fights that broke out on July 4, 2012.
“One of the biggest differences we noticed … it was truly a college party,” Johnson said about July 4, 2013. “It seemed to be that it was much more of a college-aged crowd.”
Payne said he used 103 man hours on Thursday, July 4, with hours tapering off as the weekend continued. One concern is the increasing crowd spillover from Masonboro to Masons and Rich’s inlets.
During the sole new business item, Hope Sutton, stewardship coordinator and southern sites manager, said reserve staff has been talking with Masonboro.org about its new elementary education program.
Pilot trips with Wrightsville Beach School students were conducted during the fall, and the organization is hoping to arrange island trips for Gregory Elementary School fifth graders who may have never been to the northeast side of the county before.
Masonboro.org and the reserve are also in talks about developing a teacher-training program to connect teachers to resources, also offering pre-trip and post-trip activities.
“There are some lofty goals being thrown around,” Sutton said.
Masonboro.org board member, said the goal for the spring is to take 100 students to the island, or basically every fifth grader at Gregory.
“One trip to Masonboro, they will remember that for the rest of their lives,” Newkirk said.
Masonboro.org is in the process of setting up a meeting with the New Hanover County Board of Education to make the education program official.
The next local advisory committee meeting is scheduled for March 19, from 4-6 p.m.