changed much in
the past 17 years.
Each day on the job
he drives out to the north end of
“There’s Figure Eight Island,” he
says, pointing to the horizon and
the luxurious vacation houses
dotted along that island’s beach
strand, overlooking the inlet.
To his left, rolling sand dunes
are exposed to the elements. In
the summer months, the shift-ing
dunes are fenced, creating
Wrightsville’s unofficial guardian of the beach
By EMORY RAKESTRAW
a sanctuary to protect nesting
shorebirds. On this chilly January
morning, they remain open yet
under his protective gaze and
The sand crunches beneath the tires of Slocum’s truck as man and
machine drive the empty stretch of beach. The waves ebb and flow.
Out here in the early-morning quiet, he is alone with the birds.
While Slocum maintains a physical office in the town municipal
complex, this is truly his workplace. Wrightsville Beach’s park ranger
has been doing this job for almost two decades, day in and day out.
A sense of monotony could set in after being at the same job and
following the same routine week after week, month after month, year
after year. Not so for Slocum. Each day presents a different set of chal-lenges,
faces, ordinances and an ever-changing landscape. The scenery
remains gorgeous — one of many reasons he has yet to tire of his job.
“This is one of the prettiest beaches on the coast and our water
quality is superb — you see dolphins, in the winter months you can
see whales, every single bird out here is protected. There’s a lot of neat
stuff, we have manatees that come up,” he says. “How many communi-ties
have that? We’re pretty fortunate to have such a great place to go
to. I always look at my job as trying to keep it that way.”
Slocum’s job description includes patrolling the beach and enforc-ing
town regulations by writing citations, enforcing animal control,
WBM march 2018
ensuring the safety of bird
nesting areas, and monitoring
Wrightsville Beach wildlife and
the sea turtle nesting project.
And it is so much more.
“My division is under planning
and inspections, and that’s a big
umbrella of other departments,”
he says. “I would say during the
course of my day or week I’ll be
working with every department
The unofficial town ambassa-dor
was 31 when he became the
town’s first full-time park ranger.
Wilmington’s population was just
89,765 when he started in 2000.
Now it’s at 117,525, with the 2.39
square miles of Wrightsville Beach
home to 2,560 full-time residents
and tens of thousands of visitors.
“There was a time when I first started, during the winter months, it
was extremely slow,” he says. “But every year it gets busier. I think that
more people are coming to visit, moving out of their area and coming
Even on a bone-chillingly cold winter day, there’s still work to be
done and ordinances to enforce. Slocum cruises along the beach. The
waves are just big enough to attract a few surfers. Adorned in head-to-
toe wetsuits, they paddle out with determination and force in the
A lone surfer rides a wave next to Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, clearly in
the range of the red and white sign reading “Danger No Swimming,
$250 fine,” with an arrow noting the distance between the beach
and pier. Slocum pulls his truck to face the ocean then sounds a horn
similar to a duck call. He sounds it a few more times, making a hand
gesture toward the surfer.
“He’s too close to the pier right now, so I’m just reminding him
where he’s at,” Slocum says. “Surfing close to the pier, surfers not wear-ing
their leash — both are safety issues which are ordinances, which I
write citations to.”
Park ranger Shannon Slocum on Wrightsville’s north end with Figure
Eight in the background in February.