Nature park project given low priority

Published 12:57 am Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Washington will look for funding — grants, more than likely — to pay for a wilderness park, but the proposed project isn’t at the top of the city’s priorities.

Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson put the matter on the agenda for the council’s meeting Monday. Roberson wanted to discuss the project as part of the city’s focus on enhancing the eco-tourism industry in Washington and surrounding areas and providing more public access to the Pamlico-Tar River. He also said, if built, the project would provide a safer alternative to fishing from the U.S. Highway 17 Business bridge.

John Rodman, the city’s planning and development director, gave a brief overview of the proposed project, which has been on the city’s radar for about five years. Rodman said the city’s Planning and Development Department is “constantly investigating possible grants” to help pay for developing the project.

“Of course, we wouldn’t do anything until we come before council,” he said.

Some groundwork for the project has been laid, Rodman noted.

“We’ve done some preliminary work on some designs, some park trails. So, we have a lot of the preliminary information done,” Rodman said.

Rodman said the city has discussed the project with the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation and the N.C. Estuarium.

“We want to try to make sure we keep this project on the forefront,” Rodman said.

Councilman Doug Mercer said that while the wilderness park project has merit, he would prefer the city finish other projects such as Festival Park next to the N.C. Estuarium and Haven’s Gardens before taking on the wilderness park project. He also noted the downtown revitalization plan the city approved about two years ago calls for implementing other projects at different places along the city’s waterfront.

“I have some real reservations about biting off more than we can chew,” Mercer said. “I’d like to see us get one project well on the way to completion before we jump off and tackle another 300-acre site.”

Councilman Gil Davis concurred.

With the other projects the city has under way, Davis said it must be careful “not to spread ourselves too thin.” He suggested placing the wilderness park project on hold.

Roberson said he understands the concerns voiced by Mercer and Davis, but he believes the city should continue pursuing the project, and the funding to pay for it.

City Manager Josh Kay suggested the council consider including the project in the city’s capital-improvements plan, which prioritizes such projects. That plan, revised from time to time, also outlines the timeline for implementing a project and funding sources for the project.

For additional coverage of the council’s meeting, see future editions of the Washington Daily News.

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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