Reprinted from the Carteret County News-Times
CEDAR POINT — After months of delay caused mostly by tree damage from Hurricane Florence, the town’s park along the White Oak River will open to the public for the first time at 8 a.m. Friday.
Commissioner John Nash made the announcement during the town board’s monthly meeting Oct. 22 in town hall off Sherwood Avenue.
Speaking during commission comments, Nash said the 56-acre, heavily wooded park will temporarily be called Boathouse Creek Walking Trails in Cedar Point.
Boathouse Creek leads to the river and park land abuts both waterways. However, Nash said the town will seek a permanent name for the park in the future, with input from residents.
“Don Redfearn (public works director) and his team have worked diligently to get the park ready for public access,” Nash said.
Workers for a contractor also had to get rid of dangling branches, remove some fallen trees from the hiking trails and mark trails so people won’t get lost in the dense woods.
There’s a gate at the entrance to the park on Masonic Avenue, and it will be opened daily at 8 a.m. and closed at 7 p.m., Nash added.
There are five to eight “semi-delineated” parking spaces inside a small area to the left beyond the gate. There are also two handicap parking spaces.
Initially, the park will be for walking, enjoying nature and fishing, Nash said. There is abundant wildlife and a cornucopia of native flora.
One of the trails is a mile long, another is 0.8 miles and a third is 0.4 miles. Each is marked with reflective signs of a different color. There is a dock, but it will remain closed to the public for safety reasons.
The town is seeking a $150,000 state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant to buy and build a kayak launch, dock and permeable parking lot.
The town bought the 56-acre waterfront tract for $2.8 million in April from the North Carolina Masons, with the intent of offering passive recreation and providing a stormwater runoff buffer between nearby residential development and the river in order to protect and enhance water quality. Passive recreational uses such as wildlife observation, walking and hiking are considered the least damaging to wetland ecosystems.
Cedar Point had partnered with the North Carolina Coastal Federation, North Carolina Department of Transportation, University of North Carolina and East Carolina University on various water quality projects intended to help improve the White Oak River.
The property had previously been zoned for multi-family development.
The park includes all of the remaining undeveloped Masonic property in town except the historic Octagon House and its grounds.
Nash said for now, there will be no restrooms on park property and no trash receptacles. He said anyone who hikes should pack out what they bring along.
All state laws are applicable within the park, and the property will be patrolled by the town’s sheriff’s deputy, Kurt Nokamura, and others from the sheriff’s department when needed. There will be no town staff on site.
Nash urged anyone who uses the park to “be aware of your surroundings,” and said if someone calls 911, law enforcement or the Western Carteret Fire and EMS Department, located nearby on Sherwood Avenue, will respond.
“We hope you enjoy the park,” said Nash, who added that the town has a long-range plan developed by a consulting engineering firm for the property.
Features in that plan, which Nash said will take shape in “baby steps” as the town can afford them, include a parking lot with a restroom and shelter, paved and natural trails, a nature play area, three water view platforms, a fishing pier, 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, a picnic area and a living shoreline to protect against erosion.
The town took possession of the property in April, about five months after voters in November 2018 overwhelmingly approved a bond referendum to pay for it.
Officials have told taxpayers the town will seek grants to help defray the 3-cent property tax hike that went into effect July 1 to pay off the bonds, which were bought by Sterling National Bank of New York.