Grass needs to grow before work can be completed

Havelock’s Slocum Creek Recreation Area has a finished parking lot and a new gravel path leading to floating kayak launches, but the park is not yet open to the public.

Havelock officials say they need more grass to grow to stabilize the soil before concrete foundations for picnic tables can be poured.

They had hoped to open the park this month, but no firm date for the opening has been set.

“I’m real excited that we’re at the point that we’re at,” Havelock Mayor Will Lewis said. “I don’t know how many times that I’ve seen people in the last three months just since the weather got nice, dragging their kayaks and canoes off of the boat ramp. Every time I see that I think that in in a couple of months they are going to be able to use our kayak launches and our docks down there and not have to get in and out where all the motorized boats are, so I think it’s exciting for a lot of reasons.”

The 10-space parking area is paved, and a gravel pathway links the pavement to the kayak launch at the creek’s edge. Picnic tables, grills and benches are planned for the area.

But all that depends on how quickly the grass grows.

“At this point I know they don’t want people out there because they are trying to grow grass,” said Lauren Wargo, public information officer for the city. “The sooner we can grow grass, the sooner that area can be opened.”

City planner Katrina Marshall said that no action had been taken in coordinating with Craven County for the removal of downed trees that may be obstructions to navigation on the creek. Soon, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will be placing no wake signs in the water to alert boat to the presence of small craft.

“We cannot post them until we get our CAMA major permit modification and that is still being processed,” said Marshall.

Lewis said few residents know the beauty of Slocum Creek.

“A lot of our citizens don’t have any idea how beautiful that little area is down there,” said Lewis. “When that park is fully opened and they can just walk down there and just walk down to the kayak launch and take a look at how beautiful it is and see what kind of access they have been given, I think the citizens will get excited about it, because it’s really about access.”

The city started the project in earnest five years ago, but its roots go back to the 1970s. Since then, the city has steadily been purchasing properties along Slocum Creek that will act as a buffer from development.

“I don’t think that I even envisioned that in five years we’d be this far along, but to know that in a very short amount of time we will actually have the beginning pallet that we will be using to create an entire park over the next several decades, this is the kind of park that can grow and grow and grow from this point forward to a long time after any of us are using it and I think it’s kind of a legacy for the city of Havelock,” said Lewis. “Geographically, it’s right in the center of town with a lot of potential to turn it into a bigger and better park as time goes on.”

According to Wargo, the cost of the project so far is $407,726 for the purchase of the property, the kayak launch and picnic items, driveway, parking spaces and walkway. That includes $283,093 from Coastal Area Management Act contributions and grants, $20,000 from the Bate Foundation, and $25,000 from the Attorney General Environmental Enhancement Grant. The city has contributed $79,633 of its own money.

“Our citizens are going to see a great return on a very small investment,” Lewis said.