Near the banks of Slocum Creek, where the sound of Cherry Point jets can be heard, the Duke Energy Foundation gave away money in an effort to protect both.
The foundation made a $50,000 grant to the N.C. Coastal Land Trust for its Military Encroachment Project.
Millie Chalk, district manager for government and community relations at Duke Energy, delivered a $50,000 check to the land trust at a brief ceremony Friday at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center in Havelock.
The money has been targeted for the Military Encroachment Project, which is designed to help the land trust acquire coastal properties for conservation as well as to prevent high-density development that could encroach on military bases and training areas.
“We’re just proud to partner with the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, and this Military Encroachment Project really is key to our continued economic viability and the military is very important to us,” said Chalk.
In 10 years, the land trust has protected 16 properties totaling 7,500 acres of forest, wetlands, wildlife habitat, shorelines and farms around Cherry Point.
“We actually had someone come up to us at a public forum and say ‘You’re the guys that saved Cherry Point’ and we couldn’t do the kinds of conservation projects we do that protect the buffers around Cherry Point and the flight paths without the support of Duke Energy Foundation,” said Camilla Herlevich, executive director of the land trust. “They pay for the boots on the ground. We get the money to buy land from the state and federal government, but Duke Energy pays for the boots on the ground.”
Development around Cherry Point, its bombing ranges and training areas could jeopardize future military operations, officials said Friday, and by securing the land, the trust protects the base and coastal habitat at the same time.
“It means a great deal,” said George Liner, a Havelock commissioner and member of the last trust board of directors. “The partnership that we have with the Coastal Land Trust is great. This is the future of Havelock, partnering with any organization to save the land and to help protect Cherry Point. It’s a great day.”
The project will also help in the creation of park and recreation areas at Slocum Creek in a partnership with the city.
“We’re happy to be a partner in helping bridge the gap between the economy and protecting the base and protecting the environment,” Havelock Mayor Will Lewis said.
Chalk said the project makes everyone a winner.
“The encroachment partnership project is a win-win for the environment, national defense, community and economic vitality,” she said. “We’re glad to be a lead supporter of the Coastal Land Trust’s special project.”
Commissioner Brenda Wilson thanked Herlevich and the efforts of the land trust.
“I just appreciate all the work that Coastal Land Trust does for our community,” she said. “We’ve been very supportive of them. I’m also on the Craven Community Foundation and we helped funding last year for here and our park and I just appreciate everything you do, Camilla.”
Those attending the ceremony said development is a challenge for all military bases, but that Cherry Point had the land trust and foundation as allies.
“Duke Energy Foundation’s leadership grant is key,” Lewis said. “Legislators in Raleigh and Congress understand the important role of Cherry Point — our nation’s largest Marine Corps air station — and have invested more than $25 million in capital grants to buy land and easements. But the city’s conservation partner, the Coastal Land Trust, relies on grants and contributions from members, businesses and foundations like Duke Energy Foundation to actually implement this special project, which is making such a positive impact on our citizens.”