The North Carolina Coastal Land Trust this week transferred its 172-acre Brice’s Creek Nature Preserve in New Bern to Craven County.
The forested property along more than 1.5 miles of Brice’s Creek and an unnamed tributary and off County Line and Old Airport roads is to become a new public nature park.
“I think this gift of land from Coastal Land Trust is quite a Christmas present to the citizens of Craven County,” said Director of Land Protection Janice Allen. “Coastal Land Trust did what it does best and that is to conserve special parcels of land. Now Craven County Parks and Recreation is going to do what it does best and create a wonderful new public park on this special land.”
The Coastal Land Trust made the purchase in three phases using more than $1.5 million from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, White River Marine Group, and North Carolina Community Foundation’s Richard Chapman Cleve Fund held by the Craven County Community Foundation.
Brice’s Creek Nature Preserve is made up of mature mixed pine-hardwood forest in the uplands and a diversity of wetlands, including bottomland hardwoods, cypress-gum swamp, and nonriverine wet hardwood forest.
“There is considerable local interest in opening up this park, and we are already on it,” said Craven County Parks and Recreation Director Billy Wilkes.
“We received a $500,000 grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to carry out our park plan and develop necessary infrastructure like a parking area, restroom, and trails. Construction can now begin in early 2024. Our plan is to have the park open to the public by spring of 2025. Stay tuned for news on park planning,” he added.
The Coastal Land Trust said each of the three portions of the riverfront property, which was once slated for development as part of the Carolina Colours golf and residential subdivision, was purchased at less than fair-market value.
“We greatly appreciate the willingness and generosity of Ken Kirkman of Overlook Holdings, LLC to sell these parcels of land to the Coastal Land Trust below market value especially given the location of the property in a rapidly developing section of New Bern,” stated Janice Allen.
The Brice’s Creek property will be Craven County’s second nature park. Latham-Whitehurst Nature Park was established in 2008 when the Coastal Land Trust purchased 133 acres along Upper Broad Creek and then transferred it to the county.