Brief History of BEAT
The original Brunswick Environmental Action Team (BEAT) was created by Jan Harris of Sunset Beach. Jan and her husband purchased property on Sunset Beach Island in the mid-1970s and spent considerable time there until moving in full-time in 1995. At that time, being already familiar with environmental concerns in the area, Jan invited people known to be interested in the environment to her house. The original BEAT was formed in these meetings in September 1996 and had representatives from every coastal town in Brunswick County.
In its ten years of existence BEAT sponsored educational symposia on issues such as CAMA (Coastal Area Management Act), land use planning (held at Brunswick Community College), the quality of local water supplies (held at Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation), stormwater runoff (held at Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation), and the 30-foot buffer rule (held at the Coastal Museum at Ocean Isle Beach). In addition BEAT also commented at Coastal Resources Commission meetings, commented on many CAMA Permits, and was granted the right to go forward with a Third -Party Appeal Hearing on Riverside Drive in Sunset Beach. However, over the years, attrition due to death and ailing health took its toll on the Board, and BEAT ceased activities.
The second iteration of BEAT occurred in 2017. In April 2016 the Sunset Beach Town Council had created an Environmental Resources Committee. The mission of the committee was expressed as: The Sunset Beach Environmental Committee (SBERC) shall keep abreast and update both the Council and Planning Board of proposed legislation and technological changes of an environmental nature that may affect our Town and geographic region and research specific issues of an environmental nature as directed by Council. Five excellent individuals (Richard Hilderman, Jan Harris, Neil Gilbert, Gary Merritt, and Sandy Payne) were appointed to the committee.
However, frustration among committee members and supporters of the committee developed when it seemed that a majority of Town Council members viewed the SBERC solely as an appendage of the Council with the freedom to study and report only on issues assigned by the Council. In addition, findings and recommendations of the committee on certain environmental issues (especially dredging within the community) were dismissed by the majority when they did not correspond to their desired positions. One year after the committee was formed, all five members resigned in protest of comments and decisions made by the Town Council majority.
The now-former members of the SBERC used this unfortunate situation as a springboard for resurrecting the Brunswick Environmental Action Team. News of BEAT’s revival spread, and individuals from all areas of Brunswick County with genuine concern about the environment came forward to sign on to the new group. On April 9th, 2017 more than 30 individuals came together to begin organizational work on the new BEAT and on efforts to protect the natural environment of Brunswick County. By that summer, BEAT's membership had grown to more than 200 persons, and a new and important grass roots movement had emerged.