Wilderness park on the agenda

Published 1:25 am Sunday, August 21, 2011

Washington’s City Council is expected to discuss a wilderness park during its meeting Monday.
Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson wants to discuss the proposed park, in part, as part of the city’s focus on enhancing the eco-tourism industry in Washington and surrounding areas. There is another key factor behind the proposed park, first named the Tar River Nature Park several years ago, he said.
“I think one of the things we recognize, at least in local government, particularly in Washington, is public access (to area waters) is being purchased, basically, by other entities, being the private sector. Whichard’s Beach is the classic example. I could go all up and down the Pamlico River,” Roberson said Saturday. “So, public access is being denied. So, one of the things I think we need to do is — we’ve got over 200 acres. I think the public deserves some access other than what we have down at Haven’s (Gardens).”
Roberson would like to include the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation as a partner in the park project.
“I think one of the blessings we have here is we have an ample water supply, and I think we need to keep that on top,” he said.
The park proposal is not a new proposal. It’s been seriously discussed, off and one, for at least five years.
In February 2009, the city turned down a $60,000 Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant to help pay for the proposed Tar River Nature Park, hoping to negotiate a better deal for the city. The city wants to build the park on land it owns at the foot of the U.S. Highway 17 Business bridge across the Pamlico-Tar River.
In early 2009, the council unanimously voted to decline a grant agreement that would have given the state a conservation easement on 220 of the acres that are part of the proposed 275-acre park. Council members said then they don’t want the 220 acres under such an easement because it would restrict what the city can do with the property.
A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement. It limits and specifies types of uses for a piece of property or prevents development from taking place on a piece of property now and in the future in an effort to protect the property’s environmental or aesthetic values.
The grant was awarded to the city in November 2006, based on the condition the state receive the easement. The grant essentially would have reimbursed the city for spending about $60,000 on a 115-acre tract that’s part of the 275 acres. The McMullan property, previously given to the city, comprises 105 acres of the proposed park acreage.
Since February 2009, the city and state have ironed out their concerns regarding the easement, Roberson said.
“They’ve worked on those — and I want to thank the legal staff — most of those (concerns) have been removed. So, I think were in pretty good shape,” Roberson said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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