Panels, public to help plan park

Published 2:26 pm Thursday, November 29, 2007

By Staff
Wetlands designation could place limitations on development of park
Contributing Editor
Washington’s City Council wants the city to get some help as it begins preparing a strategic plan for the proposed Tar River Nature Park.
It plans to get the help from the Planning Board, Washington Recreation Advisory Committee, Washington Tourism Development Authority and Downtown Washington on the Waterfront. The council also wants the public to have a say in the park’s development.
At their meeting Monday, some council members made it clear they want to begin planning for the park as soon as possible instead of waiting until spring of 2008, when they will begin working on the budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.
Last month, the council decided to return a $100,000 grant that would have been spent on developing the Tar River Nature Park. It decided to send the money back to the state because it expects to receive up to $400,000 for the park project in the next grant cycle.
After preliminary engineering indicated bids to build part of the park would be higher than the amount of money budgeted for those initial improvements, city officials revisited the proposal. With that grant returning to its source, the state plans to use the $100,000 to finish other similar projects throughout the state.
The city had planned to use the $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 the park, which will be built 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.
The proposed Tar River Nature Park contains about 276 acres, mostly wetlands.
Because of those wetlands, people need to understand that some amenities, equipment and facilities they may want the park to have would be prohibited by state and federal regulations governing what can and cannot be built on wetlands, city officials said. The people who help develop the strategic plan for the park should determine what the limitations are on what the city can do with those 276 acres, council members said.
The overall 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 office space. In addition to a 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 project may have to be built in phases as money for it becomes available, city officials have said.