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State encourages social and community responsibility if considering July Fourth holiday at Masonboro Island Reserve

The N.C. Division of Coastal Management (DCM) and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office are urging the public not to celebrate Independence Day at Masonboro Island Reserve this year due to the potential spread of COVID-19 from mass gatherings. Those who do plan to visit the reserve for the July Fourth holiday should act responsibly by observing social distancing measures, including the current state requirement to wear face coverings in public.  

“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.  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.”

Masonboro Island Reserve is a research reserve and dedicated state nature preserve. In past years, unofficial large gatherings of visitors during Fourth of July on the island resulted in a growing number of arrests for underage drinking and unlawful behaviors, along with boating violations, accidents and injuries. The state coastal agency and the sheriff’s office are working together to provide for 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.

Before visiting Masonboro Island or the other reserve sites, please review visitor guidelines on our website to help stay healthy and keep in mind the safety of other visitors. `

The N.C. Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve Program protects natural areas for education, research and compatible recreation. Since its creation in 1989, the program has preserved more than 44,000 acres of unique coastal environments at 10 sites along the coast.