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Cedar Point’s Park, Trails to Open Friday

Cedar Point is using this master plan as a guide for improvements to the first town park, which will open to the public Friday. Contributed graphic

Reprinted from the Carteret County News-Times

CEDAR POINT — After months of delay caused mostly by tree damage from Hurricane Florence, the town’s park along the White Oak River will open to the public for the first time at 8 a.m. Friday.

Commissioner John Nash made the announcement during the town board’s monthly meeting Oct. 22 in town hall off Sherwood Avenue.

Speaking during commission comments, Nash said the 56-acre, heavily wooded park will temporarily be called Boathouse Creek Walking Trails in Cedar Point.

Boathouse Creek leads to the river and park land abuts both waterways. However, Nash said the town will seek a permanent name for the park in the future, with input from residents.

“Don Redfearn (public works director) and his team have worked diligently to get the park ready for public access,” Nash said.

Workers for a contractor also had to get rid of dangling branches, remove some fallen trees from the hiking trails and mark trails so people won’t get lost in the dense woods.

There’s a gate at the entrance to the park on Masonic Avenue, and it will be opened daily at 8 a.m. and closed at 7 p.m., Nash added.

There are five to eight “semi-delineated” parking spaces inside a small area to the left beyond the gate. There are also two handicap parking spaces.

Initially, the park will be for walking, enjoying nature and fishing, Nash said. There is abundant wildlife and a cornucopia of native flora.

Cedar Point park. Photo: Jayne Calhoun, Cedar Point

One of the trails is a mile long, another is 0.8 miles and a third is 0.4 miles. Each is marked with reflective signs of a different color. There is a dock, but it will remain closed to the public for safety reasons.

The town is seeking a $150,000 state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant to buy and build a kayak launch, dock and permeable parking lot.

The town bought the 56-acre waterfront tract for $2.8 million in April from the North Carolina Masons, with the intent of offering passive recreation and providing a stormwater runoff buffer between nearby residential development and the river in order to protect and enhance water quality. Passive recreational uses such as wildlife observation, walking and hiking are considered the least damaging to wetland ecosystems.

Cedar Point had partnered with the North Carolina Coastal Federation, North Carolina Department of Transportation, University of North Carolina and East Carolina University on various water quality projects intended to help improve the White Oak River.

The property had previously been zoned for multi-family development.

The park includes all of the remaining undeveloped Masonic property in town except the historic Octagon House and its grounds.

Nash said for now, there will be no restrooms on park property and no trash receptacles. He said anyone who hikes should pack out what they bring along.

All state laws are applicable within the park, and the property will be patrolled by the town’s sheriff’s deputy, Kurt Nokamura, and others from the sheriff’s department when needed. There will be no town staff on site.

Nash urged anyone who uses the park to “be aware of your surroundings,” and said if someone calls 911, law enforcement or the Western Carteret Fire and EMS Department, located nearby on Sherwood Avenue, will respond.

“We hope you enjoy the park,” said Nash, who added that the town has a long-range plan developed by a consulting engineering firm for the property.

Features in that plan, which Nash said will take shape in “baby steps” as the town can afford them, include a parking lot with a restroom and shelter, paved and natural trails, a nature play area, three water view platforms, a fishing pier, kayak and canoe launch with a drop-off area away from the water, a single-stall waterless bathroom, a bench, swing and hammock area close to the water, an open space, a picnic area and a living shoreline to protect against erosion.

The town took possession of the property in April, about five months after voters in November 2018 overwhelmingly approved a bond referendum to pay for it.

Cedar Point park.. Photo: Jayne Calhoun, Cedar Point

Officials have told taxpayers the town will seek grants to help defray the 3-cent property tax hike that went into effect July 1 to pay off the bonds, which were bought by Sterling National Bank of New York.

So far, the town has received three grants. The first one from the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust was for $250,000 and was used as a down payment on the purchase. The second, to be used to pay down the debt, was $1,011,756 from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust. The third for $500,000 was from North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, or PARTF, and will also be used to pay down the debt, as allowed in the town’s contract with the bank.

Mayor Scott Hatsell has said he will pursue a tax decrease when the board begins budget deliberations in the spring.

During the meeting, Commissioner David Winberry suggested the park eventually be named for Edward Hill, who owned the property and built the Octagon House in 1855, or John S. Jones, a town founding father who also owned the land and structure for a time.

Hatsell said those ideas were worthy of discussion and officials want to hear from the public.

The land was originally granted by King George III of England to Thomas Lee in 1713. It was once a Native American campground, according to an online history compiled Mary Warshaw of Beaufort, but became a plantation, with a sawmill and salt works.

In 1765, according to the history, William Hill of Virginia purchased what had become known as the Cedar Point Plantation. Edward Hill is a descendant of William Hill.

Eventually it was handed down to Jones, who inherited it from his mother, Mary Hill Jones, the daughter of Edward Hill.

Jones, who was born in the Octagon House in 1924, donated the land to the Masons in 1999. In recent years, the Masons have been selling some of it for development, such as the plot where Neuse Sport Shop stands at the intersection of Highway 24 and Masonic Avenue.

Jones was instrumental in establishing the Cedar Point Property Owners Association, the forerunner of the establishment of the town in 1988 by an act of the North Carolina General Assembly. He was a town commissioner for eight years and died in 2015.

This story is provided courtesy of the Carteret County News-Times, a tri-weekly newspaper published in Morehead City. Coastal Review Online partners with the News-Times to provide our readers with news of the North Carolina coast.

About the Author

Brad Rich

Brad Rich is a reporter for the Carteret County News-Times in Morehead City. He has written about fishery and environmental issues along the central North Carolina coast for 35 years. He lives in Hubert with his wife, Gwen.