Brown's Island stays off-limits, dangerous impact area

10 Apr 2012 | Pfc. Nik S. Phongsisattanak

Marines, sailors and Coast Guardsmen conduct training all year round aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, utilizing an array of live munitions. Some range areas become open for recreational use by authorized patrons during periods of nonmilitary use, but understanding the area’s restrictions and guidelines is crucial to the users’ safety.

Brown’s Island, a live-fire impact area located between Onslow Beach and Hammocks Beach State Park, and surrounding waterways, is off-limits to unauthorized users. Unauthorized users are not tolerated and will be ticketed. Trespassers will be issued citations that will require them to appear before the federal magistrate in Wilmington, N.C.

Military police and U.S. Coast Guard regularly patrol the areas because of the serious dangers, which aren’t always apparent to boaters and fishermen who frequent the area.

Brown’s Island has been bombarded by weapon systems, such as machine guns, rockets, stinger missiles, mortars, field artillery and naval-surface gunfire, leaving fragments from rounds and unexploded ordnance scattered on and around the island. The range has been routinely used as an impact area since 1941 and the impact area extends approximately 34 kilometers from Brown’s Island out to the waterway.

“When we have units that schedule those ranges we have a Navy boat crew that guards the north and south end of the impact area and a chase boat,” said Lt. Col. Frank Mittag, director of Range Control with Marine Corps Installations East – MCB Camp Lejeune. “Before the range goes hot we do a surface search and an aerial search with a helicopter.”

Although there are restrictions in the Brown’s Island areas, fishing and boating are authorized only in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and through the main channel of Brown’s Inlet when the area is not in use by military officials.

All rules and regulations originate and comply with the Code of Federal Regulations, specifically 33 CFR 334.440.

• Absolutely no unauthorized personnel are allowed on any part of the island.

• Boaters traversing the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in close proximity to the island may not stop, tie up or disembark their vessels.

• No crab pots, fishing with bottom-dragging nets, anchoring or any bottom-disturbing activities are allowed in the vicinity of Brown’s Island, namely part of Saunder’s Island and North Onslow Beach.

Recreational use is allowed with caution and compliance to the rules and regulations. There are people out on these waters fishing, jet skiing and kayaking, said Mittag, but the safety of the people is their top concern.

In addition to military patrol boats scouting waterways, beach and land areas are marked with warning signs, which have worked well to inform patrons to keep out of the danger area, agreed officials with Range Control.

“There have been plenty of issues where people go out there when they’re not supposed to be there,” said Mittag. “There have been no incidents where people have been hurt, and we want to keep it that way. We want to continue to get the word out to keep people off of these dangerous areas.