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City seeks more money for park project

By Staff
Returning grant with expectation of increased funds
By MIKE VOSS
Contributing Editor
With an expectation of receiving more money next year, Washington is returning a $100,000 grant that would have been spent on developing the Tar River Nature Park.
After preliminary engineering for a project to improve the proposed park indicated bids to build part of that project would be higher than the amount of money budgeted for those initial improvements, city officials revisited the proposal. During the City Council’s meeting Monday, the council decided the city should send back the grant in return for the state providing more money for the project. That money would come in the next fiscal year.
Plans are to use the money returned by the city to finish other similar projects throughout the state, city officials said.
The city had received a $100,000 Coastal Area Management Act grant, awarded by the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, to help pay for site improvements and a building that would house restrooms and storage facilities at Tar River Nature Park, which is on city-owned land at the southern foot of the U.S. Highway 17 bridge across the Pamlico-Tar River. The city was to provide $30,000 in cash and in-kind contributions for the project.
In August, after receiving the report the grant funds would not cover all costs of the project, the City Council authorized City Manager James C. Smith to seek an amendment of the grant. That amendment would have removed the proposed building from the project, leaving the site improvements to be paid for with the grant and city’s money.
The council decided the city would seek additional money to build the restrooms and storage facilities sometime later. The city planned to seek that money during an upcoming grant cycle.
After listening to Bobby Roberson, the city’s planning and development director, discuss the matter Monday, the council chose to return the grant to the state in exchange for a larger amount of money so the city could build more of the project.
The Tar River Nature Park contains about 276 acres, mostly wetlands.
According to Rivers &Associates, who prepared the preliminary engineering report the city received in August, the building and parking-lot improvements, which include landscaping work, would have cost about $270,000. The cost to construct the building was estimated at $134,750, according to the report. The firm was awarded a $16,537 administrative contract to help plan the project.
The estimated cost for site and landscaping improvements comes to $103,000, according to the report.
By returning the $100,000 grant so it can acquire a larger grant next year, the city will be able “to bring this property to its biggest and best use,” Roberson told the council.
During the meeting, the council learned the Beaufort County Committee of 100 is considering providing money to build a fishing pier, picnic area and other amenities at the park.
The overall, proposed park project, which will provide shoreline access to the public, calls 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.
Councilman Mickey Gahagan said acquiring a larger grant for the project is important because it will help the city provide pubic access to the river. Councilman Archie Jennings said obtaining a larger grant will enable the city to “create something special” and help ease the loss of Whichard’s Beach and Griffin’s Beach. Those beaches used to provide public access to the river but have been bought for development purposes or potential development purposes.
Jennings also said state and county officials have been discussing the possibility of locating another public boat ramp in the county. He did not identify where that ramp may be located.
For more coverage of the council’s meeting, see future editions of the Daily News.