SURF CITY — Surf City is set to embark on a multi-phase recreation plan based on direct feedback from the community. It purchased nearly 60 acres of land next to its existing community center, making the future complex a 100-acre area of entertainment.
The Earl G. and Inez Batts Recreational Complex is set to break ground in 2022, following nearly $1 million in grant funding. Earlier in the fall, the town was awarded two $500,000 grants for the project – one from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and one from the state Land and Water Conservation Fund. Surf City received the maximum amount possible from both.
The new recreation field will be named after the Batts family who has owned the land since 1974 and generously sold it under market value, at $500,000, for the town to use as a park.
The town fronted the cost of the land acquisition, which will be repaid with help from the grant. Surf City also contributed about $150,000 of its town budget so far toward the project.
“Once completed, it will be one of the most impressive and largest complexes anywhere from Wilmington to Jacksonville,” Surf City parks, recreation and tourism director Chad Merritt said.
He explained the community has been heavily involved with its input since a comprehensive plan began in 2018. More than 2,000 surveys were completed by residents identifying amenities they’d like to see in the area. Once the additional land was purchased, the town finalized its master plan. Another roughly 2,000 surveys were answered with feedback on the public’s recreational needs.
“The conceptual plan completely mimics what the community wants,” Merritt said. “To have a community that can show up and voice their opinions when you need them to, to know you’re going in the right direction, makes things a lot simpler for the stuff we do and the services we offer.”
One of the top requests was for a skate park, which will end up covering 2 acres of the new property and cost between $400,000 and $500,000. The town formed a skate park design team, made up of community members, to discuss which features would be included.
“The theme is going to incorporate items that say, ‘This is Surf City,’” Merritt said. “The goal was to have some kind of feature that has a coastal look.”
A vertical wall designed with a wave will make skaters feel like they’re “surfing through the park,” and a pump track will feature additional wave designs on its up-and-down ramps. The roughly 15,000-square-foot skate park will also have a spine feature (two ramps that meet in the middle with an edge at the top), a baby bowl shaped like a clover leaf and traditional street design components (stairs, rails, sidewalks). The design team’s vision was to create a park inclusive of all skill levels, “with good flow and transitions and a unique design to set Surf City apart,” Merritt said.
“This is a big surfing community and a lot of skateboard shops in town,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of places to skateboard, so this has been a big push even before I got here [in 2017].”
When the skate park team held its first public meeting, about 95 of the 100 in attendance were there to push for a skate park. Wilmington-based professional BMX cycler Ryan Nyquist even showed up to voice his support. With a large BMX following in Wilmington and Jacksonville, this new skate park will offer an easy halfway point for the communities to meet.
“We have received very, very little negative feedback,” Merritt said.
Specific criteria and designs were sent to 10 different skate park companies for submitting proposals. Once a company is selected, it will go out to bid for construction.
Also slated for construction is an all-inclusive playground, allowing children with disabilities to enjoy the park as well. It will cost roughly $225,000. A design has already been submitted and grant funding will cover its cost as well.
The town has made a push toward added accessibility throughout the year, enhancing its beach wheelchair program and adding an ADA-accessible kayak and canoe launch dock at Soundside Park.
Phase I will also include two volleyball courts, an 18-hole disc golf course, a trail, a shelter with restrooms and a main parking lot.
Merritt doesn’t anticipate much changing from the original conceptual plan, but the actual location of each amenity won’t be locked down until an assessment is complete. The town is currently developing erosion control plans, stormwater plans, a topographic map and surveying the land for areas that may need to be cleared.
The new parkland will triple the current space and be located adjacent to the Surf City Community Center and Athletic Complex, which already includes a dog park, athletic fields, tennis courts, trails and ponds.
Phase II of the master plan will include two lighted multi-use fields, costing $1 million. The town has applied for another Land and Water Conservation grant to help with funding.
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