Boat-ramp deal in the works

Published 6:04 am Thursday, November 18, 2010

Contributing Editor

The city-owned boat ramp at Havens Gardens is in line for improvements.
During a special meeting of the Washington City Council on Tuesday, the city and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission representatives decided to develop an agreement regarding those improvements, which will be made by the commission. At its Nov. 8 meeting, the council decided to meet with WRC officials to discuss the project and allow the public to comment on it. The council hopes to review the agreement at its meeting Monday.
The city has been negotiating with the commission about the boat ramp for about four years. Last week, Phil Mobley, the city’s parks and recreation director, said if the city does not act soon on the matter, money for the improvements may no longer be available.
Once the improvements are made, the city will be responsible for maintaining the boat ramp. Any parking regulations imposed at the boat ramp will be enforced by the city, not the commission’s enforcement officers. The agreement will contain a stipulation that the city provide free access to the boat ramp for at least 50 years.
According to the discussion Tuesday night, the boat-ramp improvements will include an overflow parking area, in part to help two neighboring businesses, Backwater Jack’s and Inner Banks Outfitters.
“We have a pot of money. We can come in … do the work that’s needed to be done. Wildlife is willing to do that,” said Mitch St. Clair, a Washington businessman and commission member. “At the end, when the work is done, we will revert everything back to the city. Wildlife won’t be in charge of anything there except for writing citations for people that are (illegally) fishing.”
Erik Christofferson, an engineer with the commission, told the council there would be no problem adding a kayak-launching facility to the boat-ramp area. Last week, the council voted unanimously to allow the city manager to sign an agreement to amend the major Coastal Area Management Act permit for Havens Gardens. The permit amendment is needed to install the kayak dock.
Council members, St. Clair and Christofferson also discussed parking needs at the boat ramp. Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson said he wants the improved boat ramp to have plenty of parking for boaters, visitors to Havens Gardens and patrons of the two businesses near the boat ramp.
“One of the concerns I have is this discretionary ticketing that could take place later, and we wanted to find what that would be now because, as a boater, I appreciate having a place where I can park my truck and my trailer when I go boating. But as a business owner who watches a pontoon boat go out and six or seven people in different cars parking there, going out on that pontoon boat, coming back in and having a ticket on their car because they’re not parked in the right place, I believe that might be the last time they come to Washington,” said Laura Scoble, co-owner of Backwater Jack’s. “If we can address that discretionary parking issue, we would appreciate it. I think that’s some of the questions we have here.”
“We don’t envision or advocate some sort of ticket festival, you know, where we go down there and generate revenue as we’re accused of doing sometimes,” Mayor Archie Jennings said.
Ed Summerfield, who owns a 19-foot-long sailboat, suggested the city consider installing a sailboat-launching area on the south side of Havens Gardens. Most sailboats cannot launch from the existing boat ramp because their masts prevent them from going under the N.C. Highway 32 bridge and into the Pamlico River, he said.“If you’ve got at boat with like a 23-foot mast, you cannot get from one side to the other,” he said.
Summerfield said a sailboat-launching area at Havens Gardens, or elsewhere in the city along the river, would help attract more sailors to the area.