New Bern Sun Journal, November 16, 2022
by Todd Wetherington
Craven County residents have an abundance of riches when it comes to outdoor parks and recreation areas. From playgrounds and nature trails to family picnic spots and historic sites, the city and county offer parks and recreation choices normally not seen outside of larger metropolitan areas.
While some of the county's major parks were damaged during Hurricane Florence, crews have worked to not only repair what was lost but to build back even stronger.
Here is a look at six projects currently underway that will improve and expand on the park and recreation services offered in Craven County for families, fishermen and sports enthusiasts of all ages.
The city's current plan calls for a new recreation center on the property between Gaston Boulevard and Third Avenue. The new building will feature two gymnasiums, offices and multi-purpose spaces on the ground level, along with an elevated walking track and fitness and weight room on the second floor.
According to Kari Greene-Warren, interim Parks and Recreation director, the city hopes to open the bidding process for the work in January, with construction set for March 2023. She said construction is anticipated to take 15 months.
Greene-Warren said the city has been working with the consultant CPL Architects and Engineers and is now in the process of applying for permits for the work. She said she anticipated CPL would come before the board for a presentation on the project near the end of the year.
According to the most recent estimates from CPL, the cost of the work is projected at $13.9 million.
Craven County Nature Park
The county has been approved to receive a $500,000 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund that will go towards a new nature park along County Line Road near Old Airport Road in New Bern.
Coastal Land Trust, Craven County and Bass Pro Shops have partnered to develop the new 172-acre nature park along Brice's Creek. When completed, the park will be the largest in Craven County, besting the 132-acre Latham-Whitehurst Nature Park.
Parks and Recreation Director Billy Wilkes said the contract for the project should go before the county commissioners within the next month. Once the contract is signed, Wilkes said the county has three years to develop the park using the grant money.
“That should happen sometime by the first of the year,” Wilkes said. “The Coastal Land Trust still officially owns the land and their intent is to deed it over to us next spring.”
Plans for the park call for a creek walk and a lengthy loop trail as well as bike trails, picnic facilities, kayak access and restrooms.
The new nature park will operate from dawn to dusk and will include gated entrances that will be locked at night.
Lawson Creek Park
The city will use a $147,000 Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) grant to add a 300-foot extension to the Jack’s Island marsh walk at Lawson Creek Park to expand fishing opportunities in the area. Repairs to the existing structure, which was ripped apart during Hurricane Florence, were completed last year.
The repainting of the park’s iconic F-11 jet has been completed, according to New Bern City Manager Foster Hughes. Hughes said a $30,000 paint job on the plane completed over the summer had to be redone after the paint began coming off. Hughes said the contractor initially applied too much primer on the jet, resulting in the paint not adhering.
According to Hughes, the issue has been resolved.
One of Craven County's most popular parks is hoping to add a state-of-the-art water feature to its playground. Craven County Parks and Recreation is seeking up to $500,000 from the Accessibility for Parks Grant Program to go towards the construction of a new splash pad that would be unlike anything else in the area. The grant would require a 20% match from the county, which would bring the total project cost to $600,000.
Parks and Recreation Director Billy Wilkes said the grant for the work was submitted at the end of October and the county expects to hear if it's been approved by the spring of 2023.
According to Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Mark Seymour, the splash pad would feature a continuous flow water system and would include approximately 20 different play areas.
Park and Recreation are also looking to add two family-accessible bathrooms at Creekside Park, Seymour said.
An approximately $300,000 project funded through FEMA will substantially upgrade Henderson Park in New Bern’s Duffyfield community. The project includes a new, full-length basketball court on the site where the former Stanley White Recreation Center basketball court was located before the facility was demolished following Hurricane Florence. Lights will be added to the new court.
The work will also include a playground expansion, a new fitness course, and blacktop games such as hopscotch and four square.
Other improvements will include an open-air shelter that can be used for reservations or a farmers market, and new restrooms near the center of the park.
New Bern Riverwalk
New Bern’s Riverwalk, which runs from just west of Tryon Palace to Leander Morgan Park, is getting a fencing upgrade. Work to replace the fence, which was damaged during Hurricane Florence, has been completed from Union Point Park to the Convention Center and the city is now beginning the next phase of work.
The cost of the project is estimated at approximately $120,000, which will be paid with funds the city received from the American Rescue Plan.