CAPE CARTERET — After a two-month delay, town commissioners Monday night voted 4-1 to accept $172,899 in state grants to buy waterfront land off Highway 58 and develop a kayak, paddleboard and canoe launching facility along Pettiford Creek.
The action came during the board’s monthly meeting in town hall off
During their board meeting in December, commissioners voted 3-2 to delay acceptance of the grants from the N.C. Public Beach and Coastal Waterfront Access Program, through the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, largely because they were concerned about where they’d find the $41,101 in local match money.
Commissioners Charlie Evans, Don Miller and Mike King voted for the delay at that time, while commissioners Steve Martin and Minnie Truax voted to move ahead.
Monday night, however, Mr. Miller and Mr. King switched sides, leaving only Mr. Evans opposed.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Mr. King said. “It’s pretty hard to turn down the grants and access to Pettiford Creek. I can’t turn it down.”
The difference, Mr. King said, is the town is in a better financial position than it was in mid-December, about three months after Hurricane Florence had ravaged the town.
Since then, he said, staff has sought and received a $500,000 grant from the state N.C. Office of Resiliency and Recovery to fund about six months of operating costs for the town, freeing up general fund money to be used for hurricane recovery efforts.
In addition, Mr. King said, Town Manager Zach Steffey had done his homework and found some money for part of the local match in the town budget and worked with the N.C. Department of Transportation to alleviate another of his concerns, regarding the location.
The property is near the intersection of Highway 58 and Taylor Notion Road, considered a dangerous intersection.
Specifically, Mr. Steffey said Monday night, NCDOT agreed that once the site is ready for use, it would be OK to prohibit left turns out of the park onto Highway 58, and that it would extend the merge lane from Taylor Notion onto north-bound Highway 58.
Finally, Mr. King was heartened by the fact that the bigger chunk of the local match – $22,501 to get $67,499 to develop the facility after the property is bought – won’t have to be paid for a couple of years.
“I think this is a good opportunity for the town, and it’s very convenient,” Mr. King said. “I think it will get a lot of use.”
Mr. Martin said he had been strongly for the project all along, and is now even more convinced it’s a good thing.
A recent town Facebook page survey, also mentioned Monday night by Mr. Steffey, showed kayak launches and multi-use trails were tied for the most popular recreational needs cited by residents, with playgrounds second.
He also said it was one of the only, if not the only, remaining vacant waterfront tract in town available for such purposes. Turning down grants might jeopardize the likelihood of getting future grants, he said.
Ms. Truax also called it good for the town, as did Mayor Dave Fowler. Both noted the town’s population is getting younger and young people have more interest in outdoor activities.
“It’s a very pretty and … people will enjoy kayaking in the area,” Ms. Truax said.
Mr. Evans, while supportive of kayak launches in general, said he remained opposed to using town money for at least the remainder of this fiscal year for the local match.
“I remain against new spending until we can return (the town) to its pre-Florence state,” he said.
Mr. Miller, who like Mr. King switched his vote from the December meeting, said he was swayed in part by Mr. Steffey’s statement that the town has some flexibility on when it will have to provide the local match for the development stage of the project.
In the end, Mr. Martin made the successful motion to accept the state money, with a second from Ms. Truax.
The plan for the new park calls for a boardwalk to the shore, a dock into the creek and a 20-car parking lot, with minimal, low-level disturbance of the environment, Mr. Steffey said in December.
The site is 2 miles from the trailhead of the Cedar Point Tideland Trail, which is in the Croatan National Forest and is owned and operated by the National Forest Service. Once in Pettiford Creek, kayakers and others will have quick access to all of the White Oak River.
It will be 1.5 miles by water to the White Oak River, 2.84 miles by water to Jones Island (a part of Hammocks Beach State Park and in mouth of the White Oak River) and 4 miles by water to the Cedar Point Tideland boat launch facility.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.