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Turn right off of the Atlantic Beach Bridge and head “north” on highway NC 58 and you’ll find yourself in Pine Knoll Shores, where public access to the beach is plentiful. Pine Knoll Shores has eleven public access points in four and a half miles of beach and at least ten parking spaces are associated with each access point. For Piedmont dwellers, knowing where to find a public access point to the ocean, with parking and a shower associated, is invaluable local knowledge because it facilitates a quick day trip to the beach!

Memorial Park public access point, with “Kramer Totem”. The small flag in the left of the photo designates one end of “fishing free zone”, to prevent shark attacks near public access.

In North Carolina, the public has “frequent, uninterrupted, and unobstructed use of the full width and breadth of the ocean beaches …, from time immemorial”, as stated in Statute 77-20, and this right is preserved. Private property along the beach extends to the mean-high water mark and all sandy areas are freely accessible to the public. In 1974, the NC Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) became law and established the Division of Coastal Management which administers the Public Beach and Coastal Access Program. This program provides access to the beach and associated parking all along the coast. Local municipalities establish and maintain CAMA beach access throughout NC.

A tour of all the beach access points in PKS with Town Manager Brian Kramer, reveals many details about the town and the PKS Home Owners Associations (HOAs). When Kramer started as Town Manager in 2007 the town had five public access points. One of his first tasks was to add more – which ended up being six more – to meet the requirements of Federal beach nourishment funding the town received, along with the other towns on Bogue Banks. Some of these access points were more easily negotiated than others.

I have not spent much time on the beach since my internship began. One morning I ran on the beach between two access points. Another day I had an early dinner at the Inn at Pine Knoll Shores, where the dining room is almost on the beach and the waves seem to come through the window at high tide, for the traditional early staff dinner before the town council meeting. The tour with Kramer was my third time to explore the PKS ocean front. My appreciation for the expanse and magnificence of the ocean is great, but I don’t last very long sitting on the beach. To have reason for frequent visits as part the workday seems an ideal way to experience the beach!

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