Published 12:05 pm Wednesday, July 23, 2008

By Staff
to change
Will follow completion of bridge over Runyon Creek
Contributing Editor
Construction of a new bridge over Runyon Creek at Havens Garden will provide Washington an opportunity to improve Havens Garden, according to city officials.
Phil Mobley, the city’s parks and recreation director, told the City Council last week that he would like to hire Susan Suggs to develop a master plan for Havens Gardens. He plans to approach the council next month to seek its permission to hire Suggs, who has done some design work for the city’s new skatepark (landscaping) and Veterans Park on East Third Street.
That plan could be implemented as soon as the new bridge is built, he said. The schedule for the bridge project calls for contractors interested in building the bridge to submit bids in May 2009, Mobley said. It should take about a year to build the bridge, he said.
Mobley said the city will not wait to do anything concerning Havens Garden while it waits for the new bridge to be built.
The city will seek funding sources such as grants to help pay for rearranging and improving the waterfront park, Mobley said. The plan may be implemented in phases, as money become available, he said.
City Manager James C. Smith said the cost of improving Havens Garden cannot be determined until the city receives a detailed plan and determines what elements, if not all elements, of the plan it wants to implement. He agreed with Mobley that the city will seek funding sources other than just city dollars to help pay for improvements.
Smith said there are specific improvements the city would like to make at the waterfront park.
The city also wants to improve the parking area on the north side of N.C. Highway 32, which bisects Havens Garden. When it comes to the south side of the road, the city would like to remove the old pavement at the west end of the park, Smith said.
Because the new bridge — it’s going to have sidewalks and bicycle lanes — will be wider and taller than the existing bridge, the N.C. Department of Transportation is acquiring some of the existing Havens Garden land to accommodate the new bridge. The city expects to be compensated for the loss of that land, city officials have said.
Generally, the city wants to rework the Haven Garden’s layout to make the best use of the space available at the park.
Earlier this year, the location of the new bridge and the fate of Havens Garden were at the center of squabble between the city and a group of people, many of them from Washington Park. Also weighing in on the issue was the Washington Park Board of Commissioners. That board adopted a resolution asking the City Council to ask the N.C. Department of Transportation to “change the location of the planned Runyon Creek Replacement Bridge for reasons (1) of expense to the motoring public and (2) danger to the motoring public.”
In May, the council voted not to accept the Washington Park resolution.
The council, mayor and city manager have made it clear they want the location of the bridge to remain unchanged when the old bridge is replaced with a new span.
While making a pitch to have the new bridge built farther up Runyon Creek, the group supporting such a move also said it was disappointed that Washington officials would not allow the public to review a proposal rework and improve Havens Garden. Moving the new bridge farther upstream would prevent the road leading to the new bridge from bisecting Havens Garden. Their plan called for numerous changes and improvements to Havens Garden.
City officials responded by saying that DOT officials are not inclined to build the replacement bridge anywhere but at the existing bridge’s location. At the council’s April 14 meeting, Jennette said Ed Eatmon, a construction engineer with DOT’s highways division, was aware of the plan to locate the replacement bridge north of the existing bridge’s location. The mayor said Eatmon told her the “bridge has to go where it is,” meaning the replacement bridge will be built at the existing bridge’s location.