Ward Shore loses ground: Panelist is upset by delay - Tideland News: News

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Ward Shore loses ground: Panelist is upset by delay

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Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2019 9:09 am

The public will have a chance to comment on a plan to alter the traffic pattern at Swansboro’s Ward Shore Park. The small park is on the White Oak River near the end of Water Street where it meets Elm Street.

Commissioners have scheduled a Jan. 8 hearing on the plan to change Water Street traffic in the area of the park to one-way.

The change is part of a larger project to reduce the amount of hard surface on that section of street – roughly between Spring Street and Elm Street – in order to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that reaches the White Oak River at the park, according to Scott Chase, town manager.

Commissioner Brent Hatlestad, who has advocated for that park for the past year, said last week that the time to act is now. And, he added, the plan on the table may not go far enough to save the park.

The one-way street plan was one of three submitted for consideration at the Nov. 27 meeting of the town commission. A definitive plan is needed for the town to proceed with an application for a Section 319 Grant. Through that program, federal funds administered by the state are available to the town for stormwater mitigation projects because Swansboro has in place a watershed restoration plan. In April 2018, commissioners unanimously agreed to pursue the 319 funds to reduce runoff at the park. At the time, the actual plan was not required.

The other two plans included either eliminating as much of the street as legally possible or leaving the street as it is but adding permeable parking. There was some support for eliminating the street but the four commissioners in attendance – Frank Tursi was not available – chose the one-way option.

It was important to the panel that the public be allowed input on the proposal, according to Chase. Thus, the town scheduled the public hearing for the regular commissioners’ meeting of Tuesday, Jan. 8. The meeting will be in the Swansboro Town Hall Community Room and begins at 6 p.m.

“The board wants feedback on the one-way street modification,” Chase said. “We want to make sure no one out there disagrees with it.”

The N.C. Division of Environmental Quality has already approved funding for the project, according to Chase. The project is estimated to cost $67,323.

“It’s going to be funded,” Chase said.

The project is a “phase two” effort at the park. Phase one is to install a “living shoreline” to slow erosion and reduce runoff. That project, which should have been complete in May 2018, has hit a snag. (See related article.)

“This project will result in an interconnected system of green space, living shoreline and green infrastructure techniques to showcase multifunctional use of the landscape and serve as a prime public amenity for the town. The project will reduce polluted stormwater runoff that is currently being generated from impervious surfaces at the park and by adjacent streets,” the project abstract states.

 Once the street-side plan is in place, Chase said the stormwater runoff would be reduced by about 11,600 gallons per specific storm event. And, despite some concern from Tursi that that amount of improvement might not meet the threshold needed for funding, the 319 grant is very much available, according to Chase.

“The Division of Environmental Quality and the Coastal Federation knew the town was going to have to make a decision,” he explained.

Reducing runoff by capturing and treating it is the goal of the Swansboro Watershed Restoration Plan, adopted in 2017. It calls for reducing the volume of runoff in order to improve the quality of water in the White Oak River and adjacent streams and creeks. Storm water, according to the N.C. Coastal Federation officials, is the No. 1 polluter of coastal waters. Reducing runoff by diverting it to infiltration, for example, reduces pollution. The federation has partnered with the town in not only establishing the plan, but also in putting together improvement projects and seeking grant funds to help pay for them.

The goal of the plan is to reduce runoff volumes to a 1993 level, according to information provided in the grant application.

Chase said the one-way plan will eliminate about 3 to 4 feet of pavement on that section of Water Street – less pavement means less runoff – and it will also make vehicle travel in that area safer.

“It’s narrow anyway and when two cars meet now, one has to pull off the road,” he said.

In terms of local costs, Swansboro will have to provide “very little match,” according to Chase.

The news that some kind of project is near for Ward Shore Park is good news, according to Hatlestad.

During the commission meeting of Dec. 11, he said that in the wake of Hurricane Florence, Ward Shore has eroded badly.

“We have many responsibilities,” Hatlestad said Dec. 11 as he outlined the erosion problems at the park. “But that park is dying.”

It was Hatlestad who suggested removing Water Street pavement at the park and creating more lawn. That proposal likely led to the town seeking the 319 Grant for the project.

In an interview on Friday, Dec. 28, Hatlestad pointed out that erosion at the park was inching closer to the street.

“I did a walk-through Ward Shore today in the rain to see if things are getting worse, they are,” he said.

Hatlestad admits that he is frustrated by slow progress on the street removal as well by with the delay in the installation of the living shoreline.

“All I want out of this deal is some assurance that my granddaughter can stand there with her granddaughter and see what we see,” he said.

He fears that is not possible unless the board acts quickly.

“I walked in the rain this morning and looked as Ward Shore Park is disappearing,” he said on Friday. “It is so sad.”

Hatlestad said he wants the board to take action.

“I’ve tried to take the high road, but my peers just don’t seem to think it’s a big deal,” Hatlestad continued. “I respect my peers … but you have to get something done.”

Hatlestad said that people are parking their vehicles on the grass and driving along the grass, all of which adds to the erosion problem.

“This needs to be an issue,” he said. “It’s raining and we’re losing dirt.”

On a positive note, he said that citizens he’s spoken with express support for his plan to remove the street.

“I feel good because now several residents have also taken notice and I pray for movement,” Hatlestad said.

Email Jimmy Williams at jimmy@tidelandnews.com.

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • David Collins posted at 1:15 pm on Wed, Jan 2, 2019.

    David Collins Posts: 4632

    With the understanding that the squeaking wheel often gets the grease, in my opinion, there is way to much drama with this issue. Sure the shore is eroding and it is due to a failing wooden bulkhead. Been failing for years. It will take some really serious engineering to rectify this for any meaningful length of time. One could say robust engineering and robust is seldom pretty so yes the view will change. Doubt that the Coastal Federation or any other environmental group will be happy with what is necessary to get the job done properly but what else is new? Just look to their highly touted project in Cape Carteret. Can you say dismal failure? Would not let that crowd near this project. Still do not see just how this project is going to mitigate the runoff, road or no road. The same amount of water will still be running down the hill from the same hard structures plus a few new ones. Destination, the White Oak. Humans just seem to love exercises in futility. Could be why most storm drains that terminate at the water’s edge are located in a way that is not easily seen. The cry of “just do something” seldom bodes well at the end of the day. Emotion and all that stuff.

     

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