Havelock hasn’t struck out yet, but it’s plans to turn 47 acres west of the city into a recreation ball field complex have hit a snag.
The city was turned down for a state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant that would have paid for the creation of the complex, which was to be located at the end of Lewis Farm Road west of the city near Carolina Pines.
The city had worked out a plan with the N.C. Coastal Land Trust to use the property and create two ball fields, bathrooms, a concession stand and a parking lot. Dave Smith, Havelock Parks and Recreation director, said the new fields would help alleviate overcrowding at other city fields through baseball, softball, soccer, football and lacrosse leagues.
The recreation facility meets the land trust’s goals of not allowing large commercial or residential development of property near Cherry Point’s borders.
Smith said the land trust would still turn the property over to the city and that the city would be eligible to reapply for a grant for up to 18 months after the land transfer. The next grant application cycle is not until January.
However, Smith expressed concern about the city’s ability to receive a grant. He said of $15 million in state money available, $13 million is dedicated to state parks, leaving just $2 million to fund the recreation grants.
“There’s a lot going on, and mostly outside the city’s control here, that we’re paying attention to and it will play a lot on what our chances are for a PARTF grant if we’re able to apply next year,” Smith said. “There’s little to no funds for municipal and county parks. It was a great source of funding for years that’s no longer going to be there.”
The city has not done anything to the property. The land trust is leasing the land to a farmer though December.
As for now, Smith said his department would continue to deal with the tight squeeze on recreation space.
“We’ll have to continue to try and make the most of what we have, which is the rec complex, Sermons Park, Tarheel, Walter B. Jones,” he said. “We do have some money in the budget to bring in some dirt and grass to do some fix-ups down at Walter B. Jones Park. That park gets some heavy usage with the Chili Festival, the circus and the carnival, but at least we’ve got some money to make that park better.
“We’ll just continue to work with our associations and get them to compromise together and find space. We’ll just make the most out of the resources that we have.”
The proposed park produced controversy. While officials from various youth sports leagues said the park was needed because players simply didn’t have enough room for practices and games, residents in the area had others concerns.
Property owners argued that the additional traffic from the nearby fields would hurt their rural lifestyles. It would also hurt the business of a pair of Lewis Farm Road horse stables that rely on the tranquility of the area to draw riders to nearby trails.
Other opponents argued that the city would still have to come up with nearly $76,000 to complete construction of the fields even with the grant and suggested a smaller 15-acre plot on Greenfield Heights Boulevard instead.
The city argued that the operational costs of the Greenfield Heights property, where a building already exists, was too high and that getting the Lewis Farm Road property would go a long way toward preventing encroachment on Cherry Point.