Wetlands survey needed for new nature park on Tar River

Published 11:30 pm Saturday, May 17, 2008

By Staff
Wetlands designation may place limitations on usage of 276 acres
Contributing Editor
Washington is a step closer to building the Tar River Nature Park.
During its meeting Monday, the City Council approved spending $2,990 for a wetlands delineation survey for property proposed for the park. The contract will be awarded to Hood Richardson, an engineer and registered land surveyor.
The presence of wetlands in the proposed park area, about 276 acres, could place limitations on development of the park.
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 in the fall of 2007. 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 city has asked the Planning Board, Washington Recreation Advisory Committee, Washington Tourism Development Authority and Downtown Washington on the Waterfront to help develop the strategic plan for the park. The city also wants the public to have a say in how the park is developed.
The city has run into some problems in getting the park project up and running.
In October 2007, the city opted 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.
After the Army Corps of Engineers evaluated the proposed park area, it recommended the city have a wetlands delineation survey performed in order to have an accurate depiction of all wetlands that are subject to the Clean Water Act, reads a memorandum from Bobby Roberson, the city’s planning and development director, to the mayor and council.
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.