Governor Cooper hosts conservation groups

Published 4:58 pm Monday, March 26, 2018

RALEIGH – Governor and Mrs. Roy Cooper hosted the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund’s Board of Trustees to celebrate conservation efforts from the mountains to the piedmont to the coastal areas of North Carolina.

Bertie County was invited to the Governor’s Mansion to highlight the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust (NCCLT) successful grant received from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), in the amount of $1.2 million, for acquisition of nearly 1,000 acres as part of the future Salmon Creek Recreation area. This property is located at the confluence of the Albemarle Sound and Salmon Creek in the easternmost part of the county.

The Bertie County Commissioners were represented by chairperson Ernestine Byrd Bazemore and Commissioner Tammy Lee.  Camille Herlevich, Executive Director for the NC Coastal Land Trust,

This aerial photo from the Bertie County Tax Office shows tracts of land for establishment of a single site, and possibly the location for a future state park. The remaining piece to be acquired by the state or the NC Coastal Land Trust is nearly 300 acres that adjoin both the Tall Drink of Water property and the Coastal Land Trust’s nearly 1,000 acres along Salmon Creek.

extended the invitation to the county for this event, recognizing that in 2015 it was the Bertie County Board of Commissioners who took the first significant step for securing the “Inner Banks” as a public access recreation area, referred to locally as the “Tall Drink of Water” project.

Bertie County invested local funds coupled with a state grant of $500,000 and purchased 137 acres, including nearly one-half mile of pristine waterfront.  Further, the county in turn, wrote a letter of support for the NC Coast Land Trust’s successful application to receive grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund as part of the purchase cost for the Salmon Creek nature area.

During the reception, Bazemore highlighted Bertie County’s support for the CWMTF and its effort to conserve natural resources along the banks of the Albemarle Sound and Salmon Creek.  Bertie’s contribution to the Coastal Land Trust provides the foundation of financial support to create the Salmon Creek recreation area and the future state park.

“This is such an extraordinary property,” Herlevich said during a special gathering honoring NCCLT donors at Salmon Creek on March 17. “What we’ve been doing ever since is just submitting grant reports to the state, federal, and private funders so that we can put the money together and eventually transfer this land to the state of North Carolina and make it available to the public for archeological research and enjoyment.”

The Coastal Land Trust also received $850,000 from the NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund in 2017.  The NC PARTF provided the $500,000 grant to Bertie County for its land acquisition along the Albemarle Sound.

Bazemore lauded the effort of the county governing body’s efforts with the coastal land project.

“We work as a team, and all five Commissioners: Ron Wesson, Stewart White, Tammy Lee, John Trent and I share the same vision,” noted Bazemore.  “We are united in our effort to make Bertie County an attractive location for visitors, business investment and to increasing public recreation access for all citizens.”

NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund’s support also builds on the archeological activity at Site X near Salmon Creek, which has been identified as the possible landing site for the famous “Lost Colony.”

Momentum from the county’s public access recreation area, and the historical significance of Site X, dovetails with the state General Assembly’s designation of this land as the Salmon Creek recreation area, and potential state park facility.

In recent correspondence with the county, Herlevich thanked Bazemore for her “eloquent remarks about Bertie County, about Site X, and the ‘Tall Drink of Water’ project.”

The local synergy for this vision and the leadership of the Commissioners continues to be embraced in the region, even reaching the academic halls across the East.

East Carolina University’s Dr. Stan Riggs refers to this geographic location as the “Bertie Water Crescent” and with the support of the Water Management Trust Fund, the NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) and the General Assembly, the strategic vision of the Bertie County Commissioners is beginning to take shape and move in a forward direction.

“Eco-tourism is one of Bertie County’s highest priorities,” said Lee. “The Town of Windsor has been a longtime supporter of the Partnership for the Sound, and the development of the Roanoke Cashie River Center adjacent to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife visitor’s center in Windsor.  Additionally, the town has developed paddle trails, public access boat ramps and tree houses for camping on the Cashie River.

“The Cashie River Center has also hosted several presentations by the archeological team to share reports of its preliminary findings at Site X along the Salmon Creek,” Lee added.

Lee also noted that the Bertie County Board of Education has recently embraced the field teaching and hands-on learning opportunities for local students at the county’s property, and there have been discussions regarding expanding the “Sound to the Sea” school curriculum activities in Bertie County.

The Bertie Commissioners have also discussed with the NC Department of Transportation about possible plans for a Welcome Center and Rest Area location in Bertie County along the future Interstate 87 corridor, by utilizing a portion of the ‘Tall Drink of Water’ 137-acre site.

The breakdown on the waterway is: Bertie County/Tall Drink of Water – 137.06 acres; Bal Gra Harbor LLC – 299.63 acres (remaining in private ownership); NC Coastal Land Trust – 982.14 acres; and additional 12.77 acres along Salmon Creek.