Soothing Water

Published 9:36 am Tuesday, August 30, 2016

RALEIGH – Bertie County has been recommended for a grant award of $500,000 from the NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority (PARTF).

The county received the news Aug. 25 at the state capital, and the County Commissioners were quick to respond.

Governor Pat McCrory will make a final announcement of the grantees at an upcoming date.

“This is a home run for Bertie County citizens,” said Chairman John Trent

Trent further explained that the Board successfully negotiated a price reduction of $250,000 in June of this year just before the closing of the real estate transaction, reducing the price to $1,000,000 for the 137 acre tract.

“This grant would provide another $500,000 offset, saving the taxpayers a total of $750,000 on what began as a $1.25 million purchase. As this project unfolds, Bertie County’s out-of-pocket cost for land acquisition calculates to a net price of $3,650 per acre, with nearly a half mile of public beach access for our citizens,” Trent noted.

During its deliberations on Thursday, the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority members reviewed 66 local projects from across North Carolina and recommended grant awards totaling in excess of $8.3 million. The authority members reviewed applications which were ranked by a uniform scoring system and recommended allocating funding for 31 of the applications submitted in May.

“Bertie County’s application was ranked number two overall, and I could not be more proud of our entire Board,” remarked Tammy Lee, County Commissioner for District III. “I just hope that we continue to work on these grants so that we can better afford to operate this park in the future.”

Bertie County’s initiative would provide year-round access for its citizens to experience the beauty and serenity of the Albemarle Sound. This tract of land offers diverse eco-system experiences with upland forest areas, wetlands and swamps fed by blue line streams.

As initially envisioned, Bertie County’s adventure tourism efforts will capitalize on natural and wildlife resources for swimming, camping, fishing, bird watching and eco-tourism activities such hiking and canoeing.

Commissioner Ron Wesson was elated.

“This was a team effort from day one and many hands helped carry the water on this project,” Wesson noted. “The Board initially voted to purchase 137 acres on the Albemarle Sound in November 2015, and it seemed like just a dream come true,” remarked Wesson.

Bertie County’s initial contract for the land, deemed the “tall glass of water” project was a sale price of $1,250,000 according to Wesson, who was the County Commissioners chairman at the time.

“This is just a beginning point and we will need community input from our citizens as we determine the improvements and amenities for this site,” Vice Chairman Ernestine Bazemore reminded the Board at a recent meeting.

On Aug. 1 the Commissioners voted unanimously to engage support from East Carolina University to conduct a comprehensive countywide recreation master plan, which will serve as a foundation for the next grant application for the PARTF program. That application deadline is in May 2017.

Developing paddle trails and access to natural resources is a growing trend in Bertie County, as evidenced by the Town of Windsor’s recent construction of waterway access sites, and the introduction of tree houses available for camping on the Cashie River. Likewise, Bertie County residents and visitors will enjoy recreational water activities on the site’s coastal waters on the ‘Inner Banks’ of North Carolina.

“This investment by the state recognizes the regional impact and the extraordinary recreational value that this park project will present for the citizens of northeastern North Carolina,” stated County Commissioner Stewart White.

Also, during the Aug. 1 meeting, County Manager Scott Sauer reminded the Commissioners of the enthusiasm generated when they originally announced their decision to make the initial land purchase on the Sound.

“This historic step will break down barriers in order to provide public access to these recreational waters, noted Sauer. “The Board’s efforts are creating a legacy for future generations and building a better future for our children and grandchildren.”

Specifically, Sauer acknowledged the park would eliminate recreational barriers for persons of limited resources, and provide for people of color to access public waters for recreation in Bertie County.