Reprinted from Carteret County News-Times
CEDAR POINT — The master plan for the new park on the White Oak River is taking shape, and officials hope to have it posted on the town website soon for public comment.
Town Administrator Chris Seaberg, whose last day with the town was Tuesday, said last week he’s pleased with the work of The Wooten Co., a Raleigh-based engineering and planning firm the town hired earlier this year to lay out a plan for the 56-acre site, with input from staff and commissioners.
“They did a great job,” said Seaberg, who is set to begin as Swansboro’s town manager Sept. 3. “We want to get a big map up in the town hall, and we want to get the map on the website so people can see it there, too, and leave comments.”
Once the public has had a chance to comment, commissioners will finalize the plan for completion by The Wooten Co., Seaberg said.
The park is intended for passive recreation – picnics, viewing wildlife and hiking – and to serve as a buffer to protect and enhance water quality in the river. The town bought the land, off Masonic Avenue, from the N.C. Masons for $2.8 million.
So far, the plan shows an entrance off Masonic Avenue to a parking lot with a restroom and shelter; paved and natural trails throughout the property; a nature play area; three water view platforms; a fishing pier; a kayak and canoe launch with a drop-off area away from the water; a single-stall waterless bathroom; a bench, swing and hammock area close to the water; an open space/events lawn; a picnic area; and a living shoreline to protect against erosion.
There is also a kayak and canoe storage area, as well as boardwalks, an outdoor classroom/shelter, a pond and a vegetative buffer between the park and nearby residences
The plan shows 2,000-foot road, 2,350 feet of improved multi-use trail, 4,025 feet of natural trail and 1,730 feet of boardwalk. It also shows a future boardwalk connection across water and marsh to the 2-mile Tideland National Recreation Trail in the Cedar Point Recreation Area, which includes a campground and a launch for shallow-draft boats, in the Croatan National Forest.
The plan shows 60 parking spaces, with 40 of them away from the water at the entrance to the park.
Wetlands, which are scattered throughout the site, will be protected, and the project is designed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
None of the improvements are set to happen immediately, and officials have said some features are a good way down the road.
The goal for now is to get the natural trails open to the public. Officials hoped to get them open sooner, but Hurricane Florence last September downed many large trees and left other trees with dangerously dangling branches. The town hired a contractor to remove the trees and branches.
In addition, the town public works department has been putting up small metal signs to mark the trails so hikers won’t get lost.
“Great strides have been made in the cleanup efforts,” Seaberg wrote on the town’s website. “Paths are cleared and trail heads are marked. Town staff is working furiously to get this place open for … use and enjoyment.”
There are three major trails through the property, each to be marked with different signs to make them easy to see in the sometimes deep and dark woods, which are replete with wildlife and coastal and woodland vegetation. There are plans for educational signage, as well.
Most of the property is under a conservation easement, so development must be limited and in specific areas.
The land, originally zoned for residential development, includes all of the undeveloped property formerly owned by the N.C. Masons, with the exception of the site of the historic Octagon House.
Voters approved a bond referendum in 2018 to purchase the property and the town raised taxes this year to 9.25 cents per $100 of assessed value to cover the cost. Officials are also seeking grants.
Sterling National Bank of New York bought the bonds, which the town will pay the bank back over no more than 20 years with four payments each year.
This story is provided courtesy of the Carteret County News-Times, a tri-weekly newspaper published in Morehead City. Coastal Review Online partners with the News-Times to provide our readers with news of the North Carolina coast.