A former Havelock city planner presented a prospective plan for the development of the Slocum Creek Recreation Area to commissioners and city staff during a board meeting on Monday at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center.
"If you build it, they will come and this is a good example of that," said Scott Chase, a municipal planner with the Wooten Company who resigned late in 2012 as Havelock’s planning director just as the recreation area in the heart of the city was beginning to take shape.
Last week, the city closed on 2.5 acres with waterfront on Slocum Creek and street frontage on Church Road and Woodland Drive that will serve as the central property in the park plan. The city paid $7,000 out of the total $185,000 purchase price for the property thanks to Coastal Area Management Act, Bate Foundation and Environmental Enhancement grants through cooperation with the N.C. Coastal Land Trust.
The city is seeking other property along the creek as part of the park project designed to give residents and visitors water access.
Amenities proposed include an elevated bridge for bikes and pedestrians that would cross Slocum Creek from an old grist mill dam near the Havelock Tourist and Event Center to the park.
Small craft launch points will be constructed at the creek bank for kayaks and canoes.
The historic Trader Store and World War II-era train depot would be relocated to the property and used for education and special events.
A 50-space parking lot would be constructed on the site, which would also include picnic tables, shelters, water fountains and bike racks.
Multi-use paths connecting the park to other areas in the city would be constructed. The area would be lighted and landscaped and include signs noting historic, ecological and natural facts about the area.
One of the properties the city is seeking to get has Civil War history, and Chase proposed it become part of the national Civil War Trails program, with connection to the statewide North Carolina Greenways paths.
There are already existing walkways along the north side of the creek that were installed as part of a project by the Havelock-Cherry Point Rotary Club.
Chase said the plan calls for those existing walkways to be connected to a new elevated walkway over Slocum Creek.
"That could be anywhere from 150 feet to 200 feet depending on location," he said. "It may only be 50 feet if you find the right spot on the creek to make the connection, and if you do that, it’s going to be cheaper because you are looking at about $1,200 a linear foot for an elevated bridge because of the pilings, etc."
The walkways could be connected by a walkway underneath the U.S. 70 bridges that would add ease of access to the park to residents of the north half of the city.
The walkway would also connect to the so called "city center" from the 2009 CAMA land use plan.
"If you are able to do all the amenities in this location, there’s a really good chance once you make that investment that this may one day become a reality," Chase said. "You literally could, here in Havelock, spend a day in the park."
Chase said having the Trader Store and the railroad depot, two historic features of Havelock, located on the property "would be pretty spectacular."
Commissioner Danny Walsh said he hoped that the city could get some assistance in moving the structures to the site from the Department of Transportation, which could seek to widen Miller Boulevard to allow for possible increases in traffic after the Havelock U.S. 70 bypass is built.
"Breaking this project into pieces over a span of time is the road we’re looking at going down," said city grants manager Diane Miller.
Chase said that when local history is added as a component to the project, many new avenues open with regard to funding.
The project cost is estimated at more than $600,000. There is no timetable for completion of the project.
"These are all great ideas and I’m all for it," said Commissioner Jim Stuart, who said the city needed a "go to" person to spearhead the effort. All fingers pointed to Katrina Marshall, the new city planner.
Walsh said he would like to see evidence at the site as early as this summer indicating work being done on the project.
"We need to determine what is the minimum that we have to do to let the public know that we’re serious about this," Mayor Jimmy Sanders said.