Project eyes uses for Castle Island

Published 6:56 pm Wednesday, March 21, 2018

In the more than 200 years since Washington was established, the area’s residents have utilized Castle Island for a variety of purposes. From commercial business and industrial production to its current uninhabited state, the island is mainly used today as a shady stopover for boaters on the Pamlico.

It is also the subject of a survey currently being conducted by four students from East Carolina University’s Master of Public Administration program. As a part of their master’s thesis, the students have been assigned a project examining possible uses for the island.

One of the four students conducting the survey, Charles Pfeiffer, is local to Washington Park. Pfeiffer visited the WDN on Tuesday to speak about the project that his group is carrying out in partnership with the City of Washington.

“Our group is really trying to get good stakeholder input,” Pfeiffer said. “The citizens of Washington and the general public are one of the most important group of stakeholders. We’re trying to gauge each of the different options if there is support or negative feelings towards one option or another.”

Options on the survey include development as a recreation site, commercial development, industrial use, selling the property for private use and leaving the island as it is now. Each selection provides a series of follow-up questions and survey respondents are also able to provide ideas outside of the listed options.

Thus far, approximately 100 individuals have responded to the survey.

“It’s a small pool of respondents so it’s not definitively representative of how everybody in Washington feels,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s pretty much split 50/50 between leaving it alone or developing a camping platform. That was the original direction that the city was leaning towards, was kind of an ecotourism route.”

While the survey states that the results will be presented to Washington City Manager Bobby Roberson, it also states that there is no guarantee that results will shape city policy.

Roberson said he would like to see the area developed for recreation. Roberson went on to say that he would never anticipate the area being developed commercially.

“I’m advocating a leisure experience for young kids that would maybe take a pontoon boat across from the Estuarium to the island to spend half a day,” Roberson said. “I thought it would be unique to take advantage of it because it’s at our back door, but if the general public wants to leave it like it is, I don’t have a problem with that at all.”

With a total landmass of approximately 4.6 acres between the two islands, 2.84 acres is owned by the City of Washington and a private individual owns the remaining 1.81 acres.

Roberson said that were the city to ever move forward with any changes at Castle Island, he would want to invite area citizens and stakeholders to weigh in at a public input meeting. He went on to say that he would invite the general public to view the students’ presentation when it occurs.

“If we’re going to be successful, not only for Washington but for Beaufort County, we’ve got to explore the ecotourism development strategy,” Roberson said. “I’m looking forward to the report whenever they finish it.”

The Castle Island Survey takes approximately five minutes to complete and can be accessed here.