CEDAR POINT — The town received notice Tuesday it will get a $500,000 grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to help pay for the 56-acre tract it bought in April for a new park along the White Oak River.

Jayne Calhoun, town clerk, wrote the grant.

“I’m pretty excited,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m really on a high. I wrote this one, it’s my first one. We’re all just so excited for the town. This grant has to go to paying for the land, but we’re looking for every other grant we can find to (help develop the park.)”

Last month, the town received notice it would receive a $1,011,756 N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant, also to help pay for the land, which it bought in for $2.8 million from the N.C. Masons.

That grant application was written by then-Town Administrator Chris Seaberg, with help from the N.C. Coastal Federation. Mr. Seaberg is now the town manager in Swansboro.

The latest grant also came on the heels of a $250,000 grant announced early this year from the N.C. Coastal Land Trust. That money was used as a down payment on the purchase, reducing the amount the town borrowed.

Voters in November 2018 overwhelmingly approved a $2.5 million bond referendum for the bulk of the purchase price, but town officials promised to seek grants to reduce the impact of the purchase on the property tax rate, which this year rose 3 cents from 6.25 cents to 9.25 cents per $100 of assessed value. The increase was directly tied to the purchase and borrowing.

Sterling National Bank of New York bought the bonds, and the town is scheduled to pay the bank back over no more than 20 years with four payments each year.

Now, with $1.5 million-plus in grant money approved and anticipated, the town is in position to reduce the tax rate next year, something Mayor Scott Hatsell said earlier this month he intended to pursue for the new fiscal year that will begin Wednesday, July 1, 2020.

In addition, the town was recently invited to submit a formal application – after its pre-application was approved – for a $150,000 grant from the state Division of Coastal Management to build a handicapped-accessible kayak ramp/dock and a permeable parking lot in the new park.

The land was zoned for multi-family development, and Mayor Hatsell has said he wanted to preclude development and protect and enhance water quality in the White Oak River, which would have received polluted stormwater runoff from parking lots, roofs and other hardened surfaces if the parcel was developed.

The mayor could not be reached for comment on the most recent grant by presstime.

However, the new town administrator, David Rief, gave the mayor, Mr. Seaberg and Ms. Calhoun credit for the vision to seek the grant and for following through to ensure its approval.

“They did a great job,” he said Tuesday.

The land is to be used mostly as a passive recreation area. It has trails, which the town already marked, and a master plan developed for the town by The Wooten Co., a Raleigh-based engineering and planning firm, calls for an entrance off Masonic Avenue.

Other planned improvements include a parking lot with a restroom/shelter, paved and natural trails, a nature play area, three water view platforms, a fishing pier, a 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/events lawn, a picnic area and a living shoreline to protect against erosion.

The town hopes to open the park for hiking soon. Hurricane Florence in September 2018 downed many large trees and left others with dangling branches. The town hired a contractor to remove the trees and branches.

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

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