Boat ramps pursued|County consideringbuying land for complex on south side of river

Published 6:51 am Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Staff Writer

A public boat-launching complex may be coming to Blounts Creek, if the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners OKs buying land for the project.
County leaders are considering the purchase of about eight acres of land located near Crisp Landing and Cotton Patch roads between Chocowinity and Aurora that ultimately could provide a fishing pier, two boat-launch ramps, a pedestrian pier, a canoe and kayak launch and parking for up to 61 vehicles, according to a conceptual plan developed for the project by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
The plan also calls for the demolition of six concrete-block rental cabins and a wooden structure currently sitting on the property to make room for the complex.
If approved, the site could be completed and ready for use by boaters in about two years, according to County Manager Paul Spruill.
The proposal will be the subject of a public hearing set for 6:30 p.m. April 5 at the Beaufort County Administrative Building at 121 W. Third St. in Washington.
Currently on the south side of the Pamlico-Tar River, boaters have only two sites free to the public for launching boats — a public-access site on South Creek near Aurora and a public-access site in Pitt County, according to Spruill. These do not include any privately owned launch sites that charge a fee for boaters to use their boat ramps.
The proposal calls for the county to buy the property from its current owners — Leonard H. Gibson and spouse, Emmitt Edison Gibson and spouse and Jerry T. Gibson — for $470,000.
The N.C. Division of Coastal Management has awarded Beaufort County a Public Beach and Coastal Waterfront Access Program grant for the purchase of the property. This grant, along with a pending grant from the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, would provide the bulk of the money to purchase the property, Spruill said.
Should the commissioners agree to buy the property, county taxpayers would be responsible for no more than 25 percent of the purchase price plus additional costs such as surveying expenses and lawyers’ fees, Spruill said.
Once the county purchases the property, it would then be developed by the Wildlife Resources Commission to provide public access free of charge to Blounts Creek and the Pamlico River.
The Crisp Landing Road complex, along with the boat ramp on the north side of the Pamlico River on Duck Creek near Bath, currently under development by the Wildlife Resources Commission, would give the many boaters who live in Beaufort County or boaters who travel to the county for recreation badly needed access to the Pamlico River, said commission member Mitchell St. Clair in an interview Tuesday.
“We are working very hard to provide more public access on both sides of the Pamlico River so the public can enjoy it,” St. Clair said.
Improving public access is not only a matter of convenience, but a matter of public safety, he said.
“People don’t think about it, but in inclement weather it can be total chaos trying to get your boat out of the water,” he said. “And it can be very dangerous when it’s thundering and lightening.”