Opponents of the Banks Channel no-wake zone petition say they are among several residents who want to keep Banks Channel boater friendly.
The no-wake or 5 mph zone petition will be introduced to the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen during the Wednesday, March 19 meeting.
Mayor Bill Blair said several families he has talked with and who have lived in Wrightsville Beach for generations are against the concept.
Blair requested town manager Tim Owens to look into the past five years of accidents within the petition waters, which extends from the Causeway Bridge to green marker G13, south of the intersection of Motts Channel and the Carolina Yacht Club. As of press time, Owens had only heard back from Wrightsville Beach Fire Chief Frank Smith, who could not recall any accidents.
“I’m not convinced it is a gigantic problem in that I think that there are crowding issues there, but I do believe ever since I’ve been on this beach, which has been more than 30 years, I think the water has been shared equally,” Blair said.
Many opponents argue that the increase of paddleboarding should not result in restriction of other water activity.
“It’s not that anybody thinks there is anything wrong with the thought,” Blair said. “It’s just they don’t think it would make any sense to turn Banks Channel into a paddleboarding community, because it’s not. It never has been. Paddleboards could come and go just like kite surfing.”
Blair also questioned the impact a no-wake zone could have on rental businesses that allow visitors to bring their boats.
Those in favor of the petition argue the increased water activity in Banks Channel creates dangerous conditions and safety hazards. Petition proponents also say they do not want to wait on a tragedy to occur before creating the no-wake zone.
Allen Rippy Jr., former Wrightsville Beach Planning Board member and current Wrightsville Beach Marketing Advisory Committee member, said he understands both sides of the petition.
Rippy, who has been a Wrightsville Beach property owner since 2001, was asked to sign the petition but did not.
“I don’t have a real strong opinion either way,” Rippy said. “ … When I was a little boy, I grew up here, one of my friend’s family owns a house over there within that no-wake zone area. I know when their kids get a little bigger, they would probably enjoy sitting on their dock and pulling their kids skiing in front of their house. … This would negate the ability for them to do that. They would have to go down there in front of somebody else’s house and away from their own property to do so.”
Rippy’s only concern is a no-wake zone in Banks Channel might lead to other no-wake zones in surrounding Wrightsville Beach waters.
Todd Schoen, who has been a Wrightsville Beach resident for 20 years and lives on Harbor Island and who recently submitted an application for the Wrightsville Beach Planning Board, shared the same concern.
“There’s already so much no-wake zone surrounding Harbor Island as it is right now,” Schoen said. “Adding one more just makes it a start, stop, start, stop sort of riding area. It’s just not needed. It’s just excessive, or at least I think so. … You’re basically making the entire loop around Harbor Island a no-wake zone, except for just the area between the two small bridges.”