A special place

Published 9:31 am Thursday, November 1, 2007

By Staff
With the loss of Whichard’s Beach and Griffin’s Beach as public-access points to the Pamlico River, it’s heartening to see the City of Washington working toward establishing the Tar River Nature Park.
For those who don’t know, the Pamlico River and Tar River are the same body of water. It’s the Tar River west of the U.S. Highway 17 bridge at Washington. It’s the Pamlico River east of that bridge. The Tar River Nature Park is proposed for the Tar River segment of that body of water.
During their meeting Monday, City Council members made it clear they want to find suitable locations so the city can provide public access to the river to make up for the loss of Whichard’s Beach and Griffin’s Beach, which have been targeted for development.
It appears, according to a statement made at Monday’s meeting, that Beaufort County officials are working with state officials to bring another public boat ramp to the county. With as many waterways and boaters that the county has, it’s encouraging to see the county doing its part to provide public access to those waterways.
The city is sending back a $100,000 grant to the state with the understanding the state will provide an even larger grant in the next fiscal year to get work on the Tar River Nature Park under way. With the $100,000 the city is sending back, the state will help other communities complete similar projects.
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.
The program is ambitious, but it can be implemented. It’s something the city, the county and the state need.
The city has developed a priority list for improvements to existing shoreline areas or acquisition of properties that will provide shoreline access to city residents and others. The six items on the list, in descending order, are as follows:
Those are logical areas to target. The city won’t be able to do everything it wants to do at one time; the cost of doing everything at the same time is prohibitive. The city will have to implement its program piece by piece.
For now, the city is focusing on the Tar River Nature Park site with its 276 acres, mostly wetlands.
During the council’s meeting Monday, Councilman Archie Jennings said obtaining the larger grant will enable the city to “create something special” and help ease the loss of Whichard’s Beach and Griffin’s Beach. He’s right. Something special is needed to replace two special places.
Plans call for the Tar River Nature Park to have 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 a fishing pier and picnic facilities, other proposed improvements to the land include a wooden bulkhead, boat ramp, gazebo, restrooms, shoreline walkway, parking area, lighting and trash receptacles.
Indeed, that would be a special place. With the loss of two important pieces of its history, Beaufort County, which includes Washington residents, could use a new special place.
Washington and Beaufort County are special places. The Tar River Nature Park will make them even more special.