Town Council recommends grant

Published 4:56 pm Sunday, March 16, 2014

AHOSKIE – The Ahoskie Town Council at its monthly meeting here Tuesday gave final approval to an application for Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) funds to complete the development of walking trails through Mitchell-Moore Park, located just off South Academy Street near Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital.

A public hearing was held to gauge citizen input as per CAMA rules and once the hearing was held the application was then “fast-tracked” to the CAMA district office.

Part of an original donation to the town of nearly 50 acres, Ahoskie has since acquired some 66 more acres for a total site of nearly 115 acres.

The first phase of development of the park was a gravel parking lot, restrooms, sidewalks, bicycle racks, benches, signs, and landscaping.  Once CAMA approves the new application the next development phase can begin in 2014-15.

“What this fast-track project is actually going in and doing is developing 13,000 linear feet of walking trail through the Mitchell Moore Park,” said town manager Tony Hammond. “The trails are 30 feet wide; they’ll be graded and landscaped to handicap access.”

The CAMA grant is $232,155, for which the town of Ahoskie will contribute 10 percent, or $25,795 (5% cash and 5% in-kind services – which includes services such as debris removal, keeping track of hours, etc.).

Wooten Company senior planner Jonathan Parsons addressed the council and said among the things Phases II & III will accomplish are bringing the pathways up to accessible status.

“What we’re trying to look at doing is make this site complimentary to the Ahoskie Creek Recreation Center by creating a different type of environment,” said Parsons. “Whereas that center is more for active recreation, Mitchell Park will more be a center for walking trails and passive recreation for serenity and peace of mind where you can just go out and walk in nature as opposed to activities like soccer and baseball and tennis; so it’s a completely separate but related activities center.”

Parsons went on to add that because of the development phases, the project would have a short turnaround. If awarded the grant in April 2014 and subsequent grant agreement (early summer 2014), then it’s estimated that the project would be completed and closed out by winter 2015.

“This will cover the 13-hundred-plus linear feet of trail,” Parsons continued. “Clearing the trail wide enough to allow other uses to happen within that clearing space, places for signage, educational exhibits, and even incorporating linear activities such as the expansion of Frisbee Golf.”

There is also enough flexibility in the planning, according to Parsons, to accommodate the feasibility of the grant as well as the town of Ahoskie’s contribution in matching funds.

Councilwoman Elaine Myers expressed concern over wetlands, which Parsons said the full site evaluation inventory will allow the developers to work around when necessary.

“The way the paths are naturally, it’s already done a really good job of coming in and giving us a good baseline to work with,” Parsons said.

Councilwoman Linda Blackburn spoke of the sign usage, which will be aided by wider pathways and wildflower gardens which create spots for seating along the walking routes.  There will also be a boardwalk pathway running underneath the AhoskieCreekBridge that crosses NC Highway 42 and connects Mitchell Park with AhoskieCreekPark.

Mayor Brien Lassiter then opened the floor to a public hearing for discussion. During this time, Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse commented on taking his New Ahoskie Baptist Church After-School Youth Tutorial Program on field trips to the Park, and how the new improvements would assist in their woodlands and wetlands education and enlightenment.

“I can see some of our instructors stopping those kids there, sitting them on those benches and teaching them about local botany, flora and fauna, and other things about the birds and the trees,” said Stackhouse. “I’m excited about that.”

As a compliment to social media, Mayor Lassiter inquired about the possibility of a Smartphone app that could be used to show the Park walking trail’s distance as well as other features of the park.

After the close of the public hearing and end of discussion the Town Council approved the motion to recommend the Fast-Track Application be submitted to CAMA.