Two staff members from the North Carolina Department of Transportation were invited to the Oct. 9 meeting of the Wrightsville Beach Marketing Advisory Committee to discuss the possibilities for beautifying specific areas east and west of the Heide Trask Drawbridge. Citing the need to present a better first impression of the town, committee members Sue Bulluck and Zeke Partin questioned whether or not there was any way to clean up the area to the northwest of the bridge that is being used as a storage and staging area for the bridgework contractor.
Joe Chance, a deputy traffic engineer for NCDOT, said asking the contractor to clear the weeds and overgrowth from the area outside of the fence could be a short-term solution. After the bridgework project is completed in the summer of 2013, Chance said he would seek to reestablish the wildflower bed that formerly occupied that space. Since the land is the property of the City of Wilmington, any project would have to be approved by Wilmington City Council.
Bulluck and Partin also inquired about beautifying some of the medians immediately to the east of the drawbridge, especially the first one that splits U.S. Highway 76 and Causeway Drive, since that one is prone to flooding during large rain events. Chance said the NCDOT could start addressing that issue by having one of its roadside units survey the area to develop a project plan that could be presented to the WBMAC in the summer of 2013. The southeastern division of NCDOT could use a portion of the $250,000 it receives annually to complete various landscaping projects around the six counties that the division encompasses, but only if the project did not alter the live oak trees already planted in the median, Chance said. Since the NCDOT planning season is already underway, Chance said planning for this project would not fully kick in until next October.
The development of a centralized Fourth of July fireworks show was also discussed during the meeting. As part of the two-person subcommittee for the issue, Partin said she had discussed the logistics of such an event with Wrightsville Beach Fire Chief Frank Smith. Partin said that Smith was not in favor of the idea since his department is already overwhelmed that day and that it would invite even more people onto the island on a day that is one of the single busiest days of the year. Committee member Pres Davenport commented that the argument for a fireworks show could not be based on generating higher hotel occupancies since they are all usually booked up regardless, but that it might deter more individuals from purchasing fireworks of their own. Town manager Bob Simpson agreed that assertion could be true but added that creating an event like this would still require additional funding, sponsorships and town staff hours.
Amy Snider, the director of sales for Shell Island Resort since February 2012, said she applied for the vacancy on the WBMAC. The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen will vote on who to appoint to that position at its Oct. 11 meeting.