Because of the potential spread of COVID-19 from mass gatherings, the state Division of Coastal Management, or DCM, is urging the public not to celebrate Independence Day at Masonboro Island Reserve.
If planning to visit the reserve for the July Fourth holiday, DCM recommends visitors observe social distancing measures, including the current state requirement to wear face coverings in public.
Masonboro Island Reserve is a research reserve and dedicated state nature preserve. In past years, unofficial large gatherings of visitors have taken place during July Fourth on the island, which resulted in an increase of arrests for underage drinking and unlawful behaviors, along with boating violations, accidents and injuries, said DCM officials.
DCM and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office are working together to provide public safety and to increase public awareness of responsible visitor behavior on the island. An increased law enforcement presence in recent years, along with public outreach prior to the holiday, has helped significantly decrease potentially dangerous behavior on the holiday. The agencies would like to remind visitors not to attempt the dangerous swim across Masonboro Inlet.
“Visitor safety is always our greatest concern during the July Fourth holiday at Masonboro Island, particularly during the continued community spread of COVID-19. Our partnership with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office has helped to prevent illegal activities and ensure visitor safety,” said Division Director Braxton Davis.
“This year we encourage visitors to consider celebrating the holiday with family and friends at alternate locations instead of this historically crowded site to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Davis continued. “I encourage anyone who does visit to adhere to the current 25-person limit for outdoor gatherings and to protect family and friends by wearing a face covering.”
Before visiting Masonboro Island or the other reserve sites, review visitor guidelines on the website.