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Kure Beach Council Hears Input On Bike And Greenway Path

A bike path in Carolina Beach, NC near the Carolina Beach State Park and Dow Road. Earlier this month the Kure Beach Town Council held a public hearing to gather input on potential routes connecting both towns.

Managing Editor

KURE BEACH - The Kure Beach Town Council heard from residents at their June 19, meeting about future locations for a bike and greenway path.
The issue has been on going for a number of years with residents repeatedly supporting a bike and pedestrian path along Dow Road west of Town rather than running behind homes in a firebreak on U.S. Army property.
Council member Emilie Swearingen is the Town's appointee on the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization's Greenway Committee created earlier this year.
Swearingen said the committee is, "Looking at the possibility of greenways throughout the entire County and Pleasure Island is part of New Hanover County. So we will be part of that plan, or not."
She said several local meetings are being held to gather public input on potential routes for greenways.
She said, "Back in June 2008, the MPO which is the Metropolitan Planning Organization, their transportation advisory committee started conducting a survey on putting together a bike lane and pedestrian path down Dow Road."
She passed out a copy of that study.
Swearingen said, "That was in June 2008 and there was a resolution that Council passed" saying the Council was in favor of a bike path from the Town to the Fort Fisher Ferry. She said the resolution indicated opposition to extension of Dow Road beyond K. Avenue.
Swearingen said in September 2008, the Island Gazette reported, "That the Kure Beach Council agreed with their residents and voted against having a bike or walking path or greenway as the Pleasure Island Greenway Committee had proposed which would go behind houses in the Sunny Point Buffer Zone and when it got down here would go through the Air force Base and then around to the Ferry. It was suggested, according to this article, at one of our meetings, that it go strictly down Dow Road and that was all."
She explained, "There was no resolution that night. There was no anything like that that went to anybody. It was just discussed at the Council meeting and all we could find was a report on the newspaper."
In fact, prior to that September 16, 2008 meeting that Swearingen referred to and the article in the Island Gazette, the public was invited to an August 27, 2008 open house meeting at the Carolina Beach Elementary School to offer their input on a proposed greenway path.
The “Pleasure Island Greenway” proposed by the Island Greenway Committee was for a pedestrian bike path extending from the northern area of the Island at the Snow’s Cut Boat Access area to the southern tip of the Island at Federal Point (Approximately 9.5 Miles).
The public was invited to review and offer input on the proposal to obtain an easement from the Army’s Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point to permit the path on land in the Army’s buffer zone on the west side of the Island. Specifically, a Multi-use Path that would extend over most of the fire break (estimated to be 50’-75’ wide) that separates the Town of Carolina Beach and the Town of Kure Beach from the Sunny Point property.
The Army’s Sunny Point facility located on the west side of the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County owns the largest natural undeveloped area on Pleasure Island to serve as a “buffer” or “blast zone” in the event that explosives shipped from the terminal were to detonate during an accident.
Basically, the Island Greenway Committee was seeking an easement for a continuous strip of land from Sumter Ave in Carolina Beach, thru the Air Force Recreational Area, to the Fort Fisher Historic State Park just south of Kure Beach.
That path would be paved 12-feet wide for pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, and other non-motorized users.
Nearly everyone at the meeting said they supported the concept of bike paths. However, many residents of Kure Beach opposed a bike path running just behind their homes within the firebreak area for the Sunny Point Buffer Zone. Others countered claims that a path would lessen property values and create safety issues for residents.
During the following September 16, 2008 meeting that Swearingen referenced, according to minutes of that meeting provided by the Town, then Councilman Jim Vatrt made a motion that the, "Town Council of Kure Beach does not support construction of a bicycle/pedestrian path in the fire lane behind Kure Beach on Sunny Point property." Then Mayor Pro Tem Jim Dugan seconded the motion and the Council voted unanimously in favor of that motion.
The consensus of Council at the time was to request the Town's Parks and Recreation committee work with the Pleasure Island Greenway committee as the Town's representative before bringing any proposal to Council.
The issue of extending a path through the Air Force base was eliminated at the August open house when Bill Harrison - representing the Fort Fisher Air Force Base - said they support such paths but stated, “We will not allow encroachment on Air Force Property.”
At the time Mayor Mac Montgomery said the concerns of Council and residents over funding, security and safety as well as other routes needed to be addressed before a proposal was brought to the Council.
Montgomery said at the time he felt placing a path in the fire line was unacceptable and, "I think there are other alternatives" such as using residential streets which are "already used by walkers, joggers and bikers and it is safe." He said the biggest obstruction with that option was the Carolina Sands subdivision which blocks access between the two Towns on residential side streets with less traffic flow.
Yet the Council was not unwilling to listen to future proposals. Just not the fire-lane option.
Swearingen continued offering history of the issue saying that in June of last year the Council reached a consensus on a proposed bike path on the Island proposed by Carolina Beach.
The Council did reach a consensus. The minutes of that meeting, available on the Town's website, state Council's position to, "Request Carolina Beach to work with the SLAP (Shoreline Access and Parking Committee) and Parks and Recreation committees and give a formal presentation to Council along with a DOT representative to explain the difference between a bike route and path and future implications to the Town and to include a representative from Sunny Point for their input."
The path proposed by Carolina Beach was to run on Sunny Point land from Carolina Beach until Alabama Avenue bordering Kure Beach. Then proceed along Alabama Avenue to Highway 421, turning south on that highway leading to the Fort Fisher Ferry at the southern tip of the Island. The minutes actually said Carolina Beach could not "move forward without our blessing" because it would route the path through Kure Beach from that point on Alabama Avenue.
Swearingen said nothing was ever followed through with to reach that goal.
Swearingen failed to point out the discussion among Council focused in part on the possibility of losing on street parking spaces if a bike path was to run along Highway 421. The Town has numerous public parking spaces located along that busy road and the concern at the time was that a bike path may eliminate some those valuable parking spaces.
At the June 19, 2012 meeting, Swearingen said the current committee is tasked with looking at, "All possibilities. I think by now everyone knows what we don't want... I asked our Council if we could have this meeting tonight so you could tell us what do you want?"
She said no decision would be made, "Because it's not up to us. It will be up to the committee here." She asked the public, "What are you're recommendations."
Local resident Judy Larick said she's attended nearly all of the meetings and took issue with some of the history offered by Swearingen.
Larick said at least 100 residents attended the 2008 meeting at the elementary school and, "We overwhelmingly expressed our preference to be located along the right-of-way of Dow Road and separated by a grass median."
She said, "Shortly after that meeting... the Kure Beach Council voted unanimously not to support the path as it was presented through the Sunny Point Buffer Zone."
Larick said the MPO, "Doesn't seem to understand that Kure Beach residents still believe a separated path... along Dow Road remains the best and most logical location for Pleasure Island Bike Path, Greenway."
She said the Dow Road corridor is safer because it's already patrolled by police and does not require additional resources for the Town. Also, it's easily accessible by emergency services, provides access to the Carolina Beach State Park and provides access to business districts in both Towns.
She said using Dow Road would avoid having to disturb habitat within the buffer zone and is already designed to accommodate storm water runoff.
She said, "Since the path would be highly visible, it does not create an opportunity for rowdy behavior or criminal behavior. So for all of the above reasons I request that Council again send a strong message back to the MPO and the Town of Carolina Beach that the Kure Beach residents support a true greenway along the Dow Road corridor."
Larick received massive applause for her comments to the Council. Other residents expressed a desire for a "safe and scenic path" throughout the Island and noted that a path along Dow Road should be located adequate distance from the road to promote a sense of safety.
Other residents noted that existing paths along the edge of area roads create a sense of tension and off-road paths are much safer for families.
The general consensus of residents who spoke at the meeting was that Dow Road is the proper route.
Alabama Avenue resident Alicia Devereaux favors the Dow Road path for similar reasons noted by Larick.
She said their street is home to a small quiet residential community with children and many residents are concerned with safety having to contend with increased traffic and security.
She said, "I used to live on a bike path in Burlington, VT, and although it was beautiful and ran along Lake Champlain, it was absolutely gorgeous. It was also known as felony highway. It was a wonderful place for people to ride their bikes, come in and rip you off and take off in the middle of the night. It was not comfortable to live like that."
Devereaux said, "I think a greenway is a wonderful idea but I think you have to think of everybody as a whole and I don't think it should be at the cost of property owners in Kure Beach or Carolina Beach. I think there is an invasion of privacy and our rights to quiet enjoyment by putting
it in front of or behind our homes. I think it would affect the property values and think it would be an issue in terms of selling homes. Some people just won't be comfortable with it being there."
She said, "I strongly believe a greenway bike path running through the Sunny Point Fire Zone is not in the best interest of our community. I strongly support... a separated off-road greenway utilizing the Dow Road corridor... I think it's absolutely the best solution."
Local resident Gabby Kraus said it's evident that residents at the meeting are not in favor running the path behind properties on Settler's Lane and, "Are unanimously in favor of running it down Dow Road. I know there are a lot of questions about what happens after you get to K. Avenue" heading south to the Fort Fisher Ferry.
He said, "Those are questions that have to be resolved. The problem that has been resolved tonight in my opinion is that Dow Road is the place this bike path should go. And if Council was listening to the citizens of the Town they will pass a resolution to tell the MPO and all the other people... to concentrate putting this path down Dow Road. And use the energies we have... to get the bike path done and the Dow Road project done."
Mayor Lambeth said Carolina Beach owns the road along Alabama Avenue bordering Kure Beach and they can do as they please on that road.
He said, "They were nice enough to bring it to our attention and wanted us to sign on with it and we did not do anything."
Lambeth said Senator Rabon is working with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to extend the path down Dow Road at this point.
Swearingen said she simply wanted to inform residents so they would know now rather than at the last minute how the issue is progressing.
She urged residents to visit to fill out a survey and offer their input to planning officials.
Councilman David Heglar said he doesn't favor a path through the woods because of complications for emergency personnel and favors a path along Dow Road. He identified there is still an issue south of K. Avenue.