Listening to concerns of nearby residents, Havelock commissioners decided to hold off on any decision about a proposed recreation area on Lewis Farm Road during their meeting Monday night.
Residents of Lewis Farm Road as well as nearby Carolina Pines voiced concerns about the proposed park and its impact on traffic, horse stables, the "peaceful" neighborhood and the military.
Meanwhile, some residents spoke in support of the park, saying children and sports leagues need more places to play.
Havelock is considering a cooperative effort to use part of 37 acres off Lewis Farm Road next to Cherry Point to build up to two ball fields that would be run by the city’s recreation department.
The N.C. Coastal Land Trust owns the property but has agreed to turn over the property to the city for the development of the park. The city is considering applying for a $500,000 state recreation grant to pay for construction, which would include the fields, picnic shelters, 100-space parking lot and concession stand. The city would have to come up with $75,000 as its part of the grant.
But the financial equation didn’t bother opponents as much as the impact on nearby neighborhoods.
"Most of the people on the Lewis Farm Road would not be using the sports field," said Edward Lloyd, a resident and owner of Caballo Stables. "The high traffic potential would cause vehicle congestion on an otherwise peaceful, country road. The Carolina Pines intersection has had many wrecks already without the increase in traffic."
Lloyd said that there would also be a conflict with the frequent military convoys that use the Lewis Farm Road.
"The increased numbers of people increases the chances of vandalism to our homes, our property and our businesses," Lloyd said. "A dead end road with no police patrol puts us at greater risk."
Lloyd’s biggest concern was the impact increased traffic to the park would have on owners of about 25 horses that use the road to move along horse trails in the area.
"There’s horses that cross the road during trail rides to access other trails and the Department of Transportation has designated approximately one half mile on Lewis Farm Road as a horse crossing," he said. "Horses and cars, people and noise etc., can become a life-threatening situation to a horse rider since most people have no idea how to act around horses."
Lloyd said he and his wife have owned Caballo Stables since 2004.
"We strive to provide a tranquil and safe atmosphere to our clients who have a horse in the stables there, and we strive for that atmosphere so that our clients can enjoy that atmosphere," he said. "The sports field would change the entire country setting of our road, making our location less attractive to potential clients and would harm our business and reduce our income."
Lloyd criticized the idea of the park.
"It is quite apparent that there has not been a lot of thought given to the people or the businesses that existed before this park was conceived in my opinion, and there is negative and potentially dangerous situations that could arise from this project being placed in our quiet neighborhood," Lloyd said. "In summary, I would say, put the park somewhere else. Put it in your neighborhood."
Marilyn Biers, a resident of New Bern who keeps a horse at Caballo Stables, also opposes the park.
"I don’t want the traffic and I don’t want Caballo Stables and the other stables on Lewis Farm Road to have to move or lose property value because of the sports complex," she said. "I’m opposed to this. I would like to see that peaceful road remain."
Robin Fields, of Morehead City, another who keeps a horse at Caballo, said the park idea was "unsound, inappropriate and poorly thought out" and "an expensive, unnecessary extravagance in an unsuitable location."
Fields also cited potential for vandalism and drug use and the increased need for police patrols if the park is built.
Richard Cota, of Carolina Pines, said park access would be limited to one road, which could be blocked.
Patricia Raymond, of Lewis Farm Road, said she has horses and objects to the proposal.
"I don’t think it’s a good idea. We’re entirely opposed to it," she said.
Another concern was raised about hunting that takes place in the fields and woods around the proposed park site.
"I really don’t agree with it because of the safety of the people and the kids," said hunter Josh Dixon.
"It’s a great plan but you need to put it somewhere else," said Emily Gilmette.
Havelock resident George Corbin said he objected to the city taking his taxpayer money to build a complex that most Havelock residents would not use.
However, Kevin Meads, president of the Havelock Youth Soccer Association, said the current complex off Fontana Boulevard in Havelock was running out of space to support the league, which has more than 300 children.
"We need another place," Meads said.
Guillermo Garcia, another soccer parent, said his son’s team uses a tennis court to play since there was no other place.
"We need it. We need something for our kids, not only for soccer but for football," Garcia said.
Deneen Wright, a Havelock Youth Lacrosse parent, said she was in support of the city’s park plan.
"We need more places for young people to participate in sports," Wright said, pointing out that the lacrosse league had grown to more than 150 children and there wasn’t enough room.
"The high school kids that won the state football championship last week, those kids started in Pop Warner behind the rec center. We have to take care of our kids," she said.
Commissioners did not take action on the proposal but did agree to discuss the park during its Jan. 14 workshop.
In other action Monday night, the board voted to replace Marlowe and Company, the lobbying firm it had used for the last four years, with another lobbying firm, Franklin Partnership, which it hired for $45,000 for 12 months to work in the nation’s capital in support of the city.
Commissioners also voted to reappoint Gunter Von Der Heyde to a seat on the Craven County Library Board.