- Published on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 04:36
- Written by Super User
The Town of Carolina Beach recently received a permit to start work on a $1.6 million dollar project to widen the aging wooden boardwalk along the downtown oceanfront and make other improvements such as a splash-park and extending the walkway 800' to the north.
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach got good news earlier this month. They were issued a permit by the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management to move forward with phase one of their Boardwalk Improvement Project and were given an extension on a State grant to begin the project. According to Jerry Haire, Project Coordinator for the Town, "The existing 8 foot wide Boardwalk was constructed in 1989, and is now antiquated and in much need of renovation or replacement. The proposed plan is to replace the entire 750 foot structure with a new 16 foot wide Boardwalk with all new 10 foot wide public beach accessways. The plan also includes extending the Boardwalk 875 feet north to the Pelican Lane Public Access, the previous site for NC Aquarium Pier and Access Park. A possible future phase to extend south to Hamlet Ave. has been discussed but is not included in the current plan."
Haire explained, "The Boardwalk Improvement Project addresses a top 5 goal in our 2007 CAMA Land Use Plan, is included in our adopted Bicycle Multi-Use Transportation Plan and the Wilmington-New Hanover County Comprehensive Greenway Plan. The Town is now ready to make the plans a reality and provide citizens and visitors with a safer, more attractive boardwalk with much improved beach access and a variety of amenities."
He explained, "The new wider structure design will be handicapped accessible and provide ample access and circulation space for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the island each year. Plentiful seating areas, swings, wind sail shading, gazebos, unique water tunnels, vortexes, misters and other “cool - off” stations and additional showers are included in this oceanfront linear park design to make the Boardwalk an inviting destination point for all ages. The landscaped coves between the Boardwalk and sidewalk will be redesigned to include a splash pad park, public art, historical and environmental educational kiosks, shaded seating and picnic facilities and open space for music, art and other cultural events and passive recreational use."
Haire explained, "The new extension north to Pelican Lane linking to our sidewalk and Bike Route system will provide a 1 mile walking and biking loop connecting the beach and Boardwalk with the Carolina Beach Marina, shopping, restaurants and all of the central business district amenities. The Boardwalk Improvement Project encompasses a full slate of public benefits for the Town and region including improved public beach access, a variety of recreational, cultural/educational amenities and alternative transportation opportunities. The project is proposed in 2 phases, with Phase 1 being the northern extension to be commenced the fall, and Phase 2 being demolition and re-development of the existing Boardwalk in the fall/winter after the summer tourist season."
He explained, "The historic Carolina Beach Boardwalk has been an east coast icon since the original structure was built in the 1930’s. It is noted in a number of publications as one of the top ten Boardwalks in America. The proposed re-construction and extension project will provide a much needed facelift for the existing Boardwalk. Combined with the new northern extension, this project will serve as a unique demonstration of local and state government commitment to providing quality facilities for public beach access and enjoyment."
The Town Council appointed an ad-hoc committee in May. Committee work sessions resulted in a creative variety of design elements that have been incorporated into the project plans. Following Town Council approval of the concept plan on June 23rd, staff focused on funding acquisition from CAMA and New Hanover County. With approval of $603,000 in CAMA grant funds in early August, and approval of a $500,000 grant from the County on August 19 the project was fully funded and ready to proceed to design completion. Completion of the remaining project elements and amenities will be a joint effort by the committee, staff and consultants with public input.
During the September 17, meeting Haire explained the first part of a State Water Resources Grant of $150,000, "Was due to expire at the end of this month. We got some great news this past Friday, the state officials had told us no way, we were not going to get an extension" and, "We already had one extension and we don't do extensions."
Haire said they were working hard to break the project into two phases in order to begin using the $150,000 grant funds. He said, "It would be sort of a piecemeal approach. I got on the phone with state official and said listen here is where we are, here is what we've got done and is there any way to get an extension?"
He explained state officials approved an extension until next April which gives them more room to breath rather than having to work overtime on spending the money by the end of September to get the first phase underway.
Haire explained they were beginning structural designs. They were focusing on the walkways, but with the grant extension they are working on the project as a whole.
He said notices soliciting bids would be sent out soon and hopefully back by November at which time they will have more concrete cost figures.
Mayor Bob Lewis said people had made some good recommendations. For example, he said Dan Wilcox mentioned adding another level to the existing bathrooms since it would not increase the footprint of the building and may be permitted by the State.
Another recommendation from Lonnie Lashley indicated a need for a first aid station somewhere on the Boardwalk to serve in emergency situations while awaiting EMS personnel to arrive.
Council member Jody Smith said she would like to work on addressing sea turtle friendly lighting for the project. She said the Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project would be happy to help with designing and funding some aspects for lighting and education kiosks to inform the public about federally protected sea turtles. Traditional lighting can distract turtles coming ashore to nest and mislead hatchlings headed to the ocean from a nest. The lights can be mistaken for moonlight.