Beach accesses at North Topsail Beach will be reopening to the public Friday.


In a press release Thursday, Onslow County Government announced they’ll be opening two of the county-owned beach accesses: Beach Access 1 at 1795 New River Inlet Road and Beach Access 2 at 2950 Island Drive. These will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.


Beach Access 4 at 484 New River Inlet Road was heavily damaged during Hurricane Florence and as a result is an active construction project and will not be open, according to the release. Construction is expected to be completed within 90 days, and during this time period will be closed to the public.


North Topsail Beach town-owned beach accesses will also reopen on Friday at 7 a.m., NTB Mayor Joann McDermon announced during a Board of Alderman virtual emergency meeting on Wednesday.


____________________________________________


Editor’s note: This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. To support local journalism, please consider subscribing to The Daily News for as little as $1 per month.


____________________________________________


The board discussed the pros and cons of reopening the beaches during the meeting, gathering feedback from board members as well as Police Chief William Younginer.


Younginer noted police officers are currently spending a large amount of time arguing with people as to why they are unable to park in the currently closed parking lots. Alderman Tom Leonard noted there would likely be parking issues whether the lots were open or not.


If parking lots are full people are "not going to turn around and go back to Richlands … they’re going to find a place to park" and some may park illegally on bike paths or in someone’s yard, Leonard said.


Town Manager David Gilbride said it’s possible due to the state moving into Phase 1, people would assume parking lots are open.


Mayor Pro Tem Mike Benson suggested a checkpoint at town entrances.


"If we really want to send a message to the day trippers … we could impose a checkpoint at entrances to town on the weekends for a limited number of hours with the idea of creating a huge traffic jam that would discourage the day trippers from coming to the island on the weekend," Benson said.


McDermon ultimately stated the rental ban, set to expire on Friday, will end and public accesses will reopen. Short-term rentals will be able to resume on Saturday, with public accesses reopening on Friday.


"I do believe that this is the right thing to do," McDermon said.


While some mentions of moving to paid parking at public accesses were noted, the full discussion is scheduled for a Thursday afternoon meeting.


McDermon noted Onslow County made it clear they do not want to institute paid parking in the county-owned accesses, and said the parking conversation is one the board needs to have as a town to see if it would bring additional revenue.


The county release noted the Onslow County Board of Commissioners are "pleased to promote free parking at all of the County-owned parking facilities in North Topsail Beach, and the County has no plans to change the status of free parking in the parking areas owned by the County."


County taxes pay for two full-time county staff members who help maintain and pick up trash at Beach Accesses 1, 2, and 4 and at each of the 13 crossovers owned by the county at 2nd Street, 5th Street, 7th Street, 9th Street, 11th Street, 13th Street, 15th Street, 18th Street, 21st Street, 23rd Street, Reed Street, Thompson Street, and Chestnut Street in North Topsail Beach, according to the release. The county also pays for dumpsters at Beach Accesses 2 and 4, and maintains the restrooms at Beach Accesses 1, 2, and 4.


In the past, the county has "contributed substantial funds" for other beach maintenance projects, the county noted in the release.


Throughout the COVID-19 restrictions and closures, the county noted they have not closed public parks, other than playground equipment, to allow those who wish to do so the ability to be outdoors while maintaining social distance.


"We encourage citizens to make use of the beach for exercise, while strictly maintaining social distancing and all CDC recommended precautions," the county wrote.