FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2006
Leland plans water access sites
Town seeks funding for two recreational projects
By Angela Mack
More than 140 waterfront acres in Leland could soon get developed into recreational havens. And the town itself will serve as project manager. The Leland Parks and Recreation Department recently applied for $400,000 in grant funding to turn two town-owned sites into public water access locations.
"The responsibility of the town is to be able to access its own public trust waters," said Landon Barker, acting parks and recreation director. "As we go through growth in the town, we are beginning to see this need."
The department plans to use a vacant 117-acre parcel off N.C. 133 to build a boardwalk and pier that leads to a gazebo. A small parking lot will also be available. The land, which sits on Jackey's Creek, was donated to the town in 2003 and has an assessed value of $429,460.
"Right now there's just no way to enjoy it," Barker said.
A second access project is planned for a 27-acre site off Appleton Way that the town has owned since February 2005. The land fronts Mill Creek, which flows into Sturgeon Creek.
Right now, the soggy land is filled with trees, but it could become the site of a kayak and canoe launching area.
Town officials hope their grant application for the state's Public Beach and Coastal Waterfront Access Program will make these two projects possible.
The program - administered through the N.C. Division of Coastal Management - annually awards about $1 million in matching grants to various local governments to improve public access to the state's beaches and waterways. Money for the program comes from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
Barker said each project is estimated to cost $200,000 and could be completed within 18 months if the grant funding is received.
'A little bit inconvenient'
"I hope they get it," said Leland native D.J. Mintz, 20. He usually drives to a public boat ramp in downtown Wilmington to launch his 14-foot johnboat into the Cape Fear River.
"It's a little bit inconvenient," he said. "You got the traffic, and if you try to get in during dead hot fishing time, it's hard to put your boat in."
He said having public access locations in Leland will save time for locals.
"It's going to help out a whole lot. Easier access - that's the main thing. Right now we don't have it," he said.
Jim Herstine, chairman of Leland's Parks and Recreation Board, said the access projects show that the town is committed to having recreational resources in place before the opportunity is lost.
The town, which is reaching a population of more than 7,000, is growing rapidly because of voluntary annexation of residential developments such as Waterford, Westport and Magnolia Greens. Brunswick Forest, slated to bring nearly 10,000 homes to town, is in the beginning stages of development.
"The town is on track," Herstine said of ongoing parks and recreation planning. Along with the potential access projects, the town is also contracting to have a parks and recreation master plan and comprehensive bicycle plan developed.
"They're not waiting until it's all grown out and then trying to come back and put in a plan," Herstine said. "They're not dragging their feet."
The town has also been working with the New Hanover County Soil and Water Conservation District to turn Eagles Island - a patch of marshy land in Brunswick County between Wilmington and Leland - into an eco-
The two entities jointly own about 150 of the island's 300 acres.
"People are fishing, hunting, bird watching, kayaking … ," Barker said. "Being able to do it over here will be a bonus. If we build it, they're going to come."
Angela Mack: 343-2009