CAPE CARTERET — Do town residents want to finish the Cape Carteret Trail, a nearly 3-mile bicycle and pedestrian path along Highway 24, Taylor Notion Road and Highway 58?

The town could put the question, as well financing the completion of the partly constructed trail, to voters in a referendum, possibly as early as the November general election.

The idea came Monday night from Commissioner Steve Martin, during the town board’s monthly meeting in town hall off Dolphin Street.

“It’s been … about eight years” since planning began for the trail, Mr. Martin said during commissioners’ comments. “It’s nobody’s fault. But it looks like it’s stalled.”

He said he thought it was time to go to the people with a referendum.

“It’s become an embarrassment to the town,” he said.

In an interview, Mr. Martin reiterated his feelings.

“I’m not pointing fingers,” he said. “But it started out the wrong way. We should have gotten all the permitting done before we started on it, and a full cost. But we didn’t.”

The result, he said, is a piecemeal project that’s a little less than halfway done.

“I just feel like we need to put it before the people, similar to what Cedar Point did” when officials put a bond referendum on the 2018 General Election ballot to see if voters wanted to pay for the $2.8 million purchase of property for a park, Mr. Martin said in the interview.

The Cedar Point referendum passed easily, and the town purchased the land in April 2019.

“If it (the referendum) fails, it fails,” Mr. Martin added in the interview.

“Then all we’ve lost is the money it cost to put it on the ballot. But if the people don’t want it, they don’t want it. If they do, they do. But the citizens need to make that decision.”

The commissioner has been a supporter of the trail and other recreational opportunities for town residents, but feels it’s time to put the issue to rest.

Commissioner Jim Nalitz agreed with the idea of putting the issue before the residents, and Mr. Martin said he believes it will cost $500,000 to $750,000 to finish the work.

The concept for the trail – similar to one in Emerald Isle – came from Mike Curtis, then the town attorney, and the idea was that construction money would come from grants, as well as donations from residents and businesses.

The town commission approved the project by a 5-0 vote in February 2015, with the goal of finishing the trail by 2018.

The town at that time appointed a pedestrian and bicycle trail committee, with Mr. Curtis as its chairman. Since then, there have been some small grants and some donations, plus fundraisers, such as the Cape Carteret Aquatic Center’s annual Thanksgiving Day “Trot the Trail.”

But, Mr. Martin said in the interview donations and grants have dried up.

During the meeting Monday night, there was no vote on holding a referendum, but none of the other commissioners disagreed aloud with Mr. Martin’s idea.

Town Manager Zach Steffey said he would gather the necessary information and “present it to the board soon. The next time we could do it would be the election in November.”

More than 400 people participated in the 2019 Trot the Trail, and their entry fees raised about $6,000 for trail construction. During the event, Mr. Curtis said despite the slowness of the construction, he’s never lost faith the trail will be completed.

The idea of the trail is to give residents and visitors a safe place to get some exercise and also to provide non-vehicle links between various sites in town, such as the Western Carteret Public Library on Taylor Notion Road, businesses along highways 58 and 24 and White Oak Elementary School.

Also at the Thanksgiving event, Commissioner Don Miller, who is chairman of the trail committee, said when money does come in to finish construction, the town will be ready.

“What we have done is use all the money left from the (previous) donations to get the engineering work done and get the (state) permits we needed” for the remaining segments, he said then.

Before, the town was spending the money for engineering and permits for segment construction only when money became available for construction.

That, Mr. Miller said, slowed things down, “but now the rest of the trail is ‘shovel ready.’”

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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