CAPE CARTERET — The end of construction might finally be in sight for the Cape Carteret Trail.
The state’s 2021-23 budget, adopted by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Roy Cooper Thursday, includes $500,000 for Cape Carteret for the trail, with no local match required.
The multi-use recreation trail is to be a 3.1-mile triangular path along Highway 24, Highway 58 and Taylor Notion. Portions of the trail have been complete for years, another is currently under construction and yet another is scheduled for installation soon. After those two are complete, there will still be long segments left to build along Highway 58 and Taylor Notion Road.
“I’m ecstatic,” Cape Carteret Commissioner Steve Martin said Monday. “This has been going on for too long. I’m very glad it looks like we’ll maybe be able to put an end to it soon.”
State Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, got the money into the state’s budget. She is a chairperson of the House Appropriations, Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources, or AGNER, Committee and is in her eighth term in the N.C. House.
The state budget totals $25.9 billion for 2021-22 and $27 billion for 2022-23. The Cape Carteret money is included as transportation funds, which covers things like public transportation, including bicycle and pedestrian uses. The total amount in that line item for 2021-23 is almost $167 million.
In an email Monday, town manager Zach Steffey called the $500,000 “a significant investment in the Cape Carteret Trail project which will allow the town to complete a substantial portion of the remaining sections.”
He said he and Rep. McElraft worked closely over the past several months to ensure the money was included in the state’s spending plan.
“We are extremely fortunate for Representative McElraft’s leadership and service to our community,” he added.
In an email Monday, Rep. McElraft, who represents Carteret and Jones counties, said, “It is very hard for a small town to pay for recreational areas such as trails when budgets are tight. We saw how important it was to get outdoors during Covid.
“Senator (Norman) Sanderson (R-Pamlico) and I are chairs of AGNER appropriations and that includes funding parks and recreational areas such as trails,” she continued. “We were able to secure a great deal of money for trails and it was important to us to help our own Cape Carteret finance their trail that can be utilized by folks from all over the western end of the county from Pelletier/Stella to Bogue.”
She also noted she and Sen. Sanderson, who represents Carteret County in the N.C. Senate, secured money for sidewalks in Newport, as well.
“The perks of working long hours on a budget when you get seniority is bringing a little bacon home to the county,” Rep. McElraft said.
Cape Carteret commissioners approved the trail project in 2015 with a goal of completion by 2018. The idea for the multi-use bike and pedestrian trail came from Mike Curtis, then the town’s attorney, and the Gateway Alliance for Western Carteret, a business-promotion group.
It was supposed to be paid for with grants and donations, but except for about $189,000 from Carteret County, no large grants ever materialized and donations eventually dried up. After Mr. Martin pushed for it as a way to see if taxpayers wanted to use town money to complete the trail, voters defeated a 2020 ballot referendum for $1.2 million to support the effort.
The trail isn’t used much now, as it is segmented, but Mr. Martin believes it will be used once it’s complete.
The segment under construction now is being built along Highway 24 by Harber Marine Construction and is an elevated wooden walkway over School House Creek, just east of White Oak Elementary School. The next segment will connect that elevated walkway to the portion of the trail that begins at the intersection of Highway 24 and Taylor Notion Road.
Mr. Martin said he believes the $500,000 from the state could be enough to complete the trail if some of the work can be done in-house by public works staff.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.