Forgotten space, almost

Published 2:30 am Saturday, May 19, 2007

By Staff
Washington’s Riverfront Nature Park project seems to have been forgotten in all the talk about saving the open space between the North Carolina Estuarium and the former Maola plant along the city’s waterfront.
Many people have spoken out against the city selling the former Evans Seafood property, which is part of the open space area. They contend selling it for commercial development will result in the loss of open space. Some even accuse the city of not caring about preserving open space.
Don’t forget the city has been acquiring land — open space — south of the Pamlico-Tar River and southwest of the foot of the U.S. Highway 17 bridge across the river where it makes contact with the river’s southern shore.
Just this week, the City Council awarded a $16,537 administrative contract to Rivers and Associates to complete the Riverfront Nature Park project. The city received a $100,000 Coastal Area Management Act grant to use to help pay for the project.
To obtain the grant, the city is making a $12,500 contribution to help cover land-acquisition costs and in-kind contributions totaling $12,500. The in-kind contributions come in the form of materials and labor to improve the project site. Those contributions come to $25,000.
Add that to the other contributions and land acquisitions made by the city for this project, and that shows the city does care about preserving open space and public access to that open space and adjacent public waters.
The Riverfront Nature Park project, which will provide shoreline access, calls for building a fishing pier and picnic areas. Project plans also call for a building that would have restrooms, an area for exhibits and an area that would be used to store rental kayaks and provide some office space.
Along with the fishing pier and picnic facilities, proposed improvements to the land include a wooden bulkhead, boat ramp, gazebo, restrooms, shoreline walkway, parking area, lighting and trash receptacles. The city also has plans for streetscape improvements extending 1,500 feet from the south end of the bridge. Those improvements include the following:
Because the city recognizes the need for public access to waterways, the city is pursuing its shoreline-access program, Bobby Roberson, the city’s planning and development director, said earlier this year. That program has two components, a five-year element and a 20-year element. As money becomes available, the city will implement projects and programs called for in the short-term and long-term components of the program, he said.
If that’s not an effort to provide open space, shoreline access and access to the river, then what is?
There would be nothing wrong in allowing the former Evans Seafood property to remain as open space. But that decision is up to the city. The same city that’s working to improve existing open space on the south side of the river so it better serves area residents and visitors.
So the next time someone complains the city isn’t doing anything to protect and preserve open space, just point them to the Riverfront Nature Park project site.