UPDATE: Freeman Park Now Open: Previously Closed Until April 16th To Install Ramp: Project Finished Early
- Published on Wednesday, 09 April 2014 23:22
- Written by Super User
UPDATE 4-12-2014: Lumina Builders have completed the Hatteras Ramp at Freeman Park. The ramp has been inspected and accepted. Freeman Park is now OPEN!
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
UPDATE April 12, 2014: Lumina Builders have completed the Hatteras Ramp at Freeman Park. The ramp has been inspected and accepted. Freeman Park is now OPEN!
CAROLINA BEACH - Freeman Park is closed to vehicle traffic until April 16th to permit installation of a wooden Hatteras ramp at the entrance to help prevent vehicles getting stuck in the sand.
The narrow entrance at the end of Canal Drive in Carolina Beach has in previous years become a point of traffic gridlock when a vehicle gets stuck in soft dry sand causing long lines of vehicles to form.
Crews began installing prebuilt sections of the ramp on Monday April 7th. The Town closed the park to vehicle traffic and cleared the park.
This ramp begins at the end of the existing pavement and extend north 320' feet along the narrow entryway between the dunes where most of the vehicle congestion problems occur. The ramp will provide a solid driving surface for those vehicles in the narrow access/egress area of the Park and should alleviate traffic backups during peak times.
Town Manager Michael Cramer explained Friday March 28th, "Implementation of the new Hatteras Ramp is proceeding well. At the January 14 Council Meeting, the Town Council elected to decline the grant and proceed with construction of the ramp with Town funds during the off season and complete the project prior to Memorial Day."
He explained, "The town received three informal bids and awarded the service contract to the lowest responsive bidder, which was Lumina Builders, Inc. at a cost of $118,700.00. At the February 11, 2014 Town Council Meeting, council approved the budget adjustment moving $120,000 from the General Fund Fund Balance to the project account for the Hatteras Ramp. A purchase order was cut and contracts have been executed."
Cramer explained Friday that, "As of today the fabrication of the ramp mats is approximately 80% complete. The contractor has revised their schedule at our request, so that the completion of the installation of the ramps will happen before Easter weekend. In order to facilitate
this revised schedule the Town will CLOSE FREEMAN PARK to vehicle traffic between April 7th and April 16th. Signs indicating the closure have been placed at Town Hall, Parking Office, Recreation Center and at the four commercial locations where Freeman Park Passes are sold. We have also installed two variable message board signs, one on Carl Winner Ave. and one on Canal Dr., to alert the public to the closure. A Press Release has been sent to all media outlets advertised on Facebook and the Town Website. We regret the closure was necessary, but we anticipate that this project will improve the traffic flow between the dunes during our peak season."
Ben Hooks of Lumina Builders, Inc. - the company contracted to build the ramp - told Town officials earlier this month if weather cooperates they can complete the work before the busy Easter break. If work can't be completed they could return after Easter break to finish up.
Brian Stanberry - Director of Public Works - explained Tuesday April 8th, "Project is rolling. 11 panels are in
place. Contractor is tightening bolts, installing anchors and will fill the gaps with sand. Lumina expressed that they will have staff working later to capitalize on the closure. The light rain has made for a perfect construction atmosphere. Working to address the issue of the transition between existing concrete and wooden ramp. Looking good!"
One police officer said the workers said they may be done by the weekend at the current pace.
Freeman Park is historically extremely busy during the Easter holiday weekend if the weather is warm and sunny.
Freeman Park, located beyond the end of Canal Drive on the Northern End of Pleasure Island, is largely outside of the Town's jurisdiction. They have authority to manage the area as a park. That was granted to them by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners some years ago. There is a fee charged for vehicle access to drive on the beachfront within the park. The Town, by it's own admission, doesn't charge people to walk into the park.
They can only charge for four-wheel drive vehicle access. The entrance to Freeman Park is narrow with two lanes of traffic for vehicles entering and leaving the beach.
During periods of dry weather the sand becomes soft and can lead to vehicles becoming stuck in those lanes causing long lines of traffic to backup within the park and on Canal Drive until a tow truck can arrive to pull a vehicle free.
Installing a wooden Hatteras ramp within that narrow corridor would allow vehicles to move more freely and avoid timely traffic backups.
New Hanover County resident Marcia Wiggins expressed concern over the decision to close the park. She wrote to Town leaders last week, "After several years of an obvious problem and the entire winter months to correct the problem, you have chosen a time that includes the biggest tourist draw in New Hanover County and half of New Hanover County School's spring break to install the ramp. That is an insult to the hard work put into the Azalea Festival and also shows a lack of consideration to the families of students in our county that look forward to enjoying beach time there on spring break. I would think it would also mean a 10 day period that would lose a great deal of day tripper's revenue. It doesn't seem like some very important factors were put into this decision."
On Saturday April 5th, Mayor Dan Wilcox responded to Wiggins explaining, "I appreciate your comments and share much of your concern, however, the decision to close Freeman Park was unexpected and did not leave much time to consider all potential impacts. The current town council approved this project at our first meeting (January) based on the Contractor’s representation that the work could be done without closing the park access. The contractor was to build half of the ramp, leaving the other lane open, then reverse the process. That is what council approved, and that approach would have eliminated closure of the park."
He explained, "Unfortunately, the contractor recently advised the manager that they were unable to complete the work as originally proposed, and the work would require the access to be completely closed. At that point the manager and council were faced with a last minute decision to either postpone a much needed project for another summer season, or close the park and get the work done before the summer.
Neither option was desirable, but council supported the manager’s recommendation that postponing the project was the least workable and least overall beneficial of the two."
He explained, "With regard to a winter completion, this council was just seated in December and we had our first meeting in January, where we acted on this decision immediately. In order for this work to have been performed during the winter, the previous council would have had to obtain CAMA approvals and award the project sometime in November/December. That did not happen, partially due to awaiting state approval, so the current council acted as fast as possible. I’m truly sorry this is
causing inconvenience, but please understand that we had limited options. We are hopeful that this short period of inconvenience will result in many years of improved visitor experience at the park, as well as, many less vehicles needing to be towed out."