Thursday, July 18, 2024

Over $1 million earmarked for nature preserve reallocated to Live Nation amphitheater park, golf course clubhouse

Instead of funding phase II of the Piney Ridge Nature Preserve City Council voted to spend more than $1 million on other projects (Port City Daily/Courtesy City of Wilmington)
Instead of funding phase II of the Piney Ridge Nature Preserve City Council voted to spend more than $1 million on other projects. (Port City Daily/Courtesy City of Wilmington)

WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington has faced criticism over the years for a lack of greenspace and for continuous development — now, city leaders have agreed to transfer more than $1 million that was set aside for the Piney Ridge Nature Preserve Phase II to construct a clubhouse, gymnasium, and design features for the North Riverfront Park.

“In 2013, the City of Wilmington constructed Piney Ridge Nature Preserve on land owned by the Oleander Company and under a conservation easement with the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust (NCCLT). The project consisted of a gravel parking lot, pathway, two boardwalk observation areas at the carnivorous garden and interpretative signage. These improvements are on about one acre of the 39.43-acre parcel.” according to city documents.

The city has a 25-year lease with the NCCLT to operate and maintain the parcel and $1.32 million has been allocated for the design and construction of the nature preserve.

But staff and the NCCLT recently met and decided that it would be best to suspend the improvements for several reasons including:

  • The cost estimate, developed ten years ago, is no longer valid due to its age and the current economic climate.
  • There has been significant development adjacent to the park which would drive the preparation a new master plan.
  • The NCCLT is having internal discussions about future use and management of the parcel.
  • The City and County have a new large tract of preserved greenspace in Echo Farms available to the public.

The city has been working on several capital improvement projects including the multimillion-dollar North Riverfront Park project that will be the home to a Live Nation amphitheater — but costs have exceeded the expected budget.

“The City has completed the design for the Municipal Golf Course Clubhouse Improvements and North Waterfront Park. These projects are experiencing cost estimates higher than anticipated. Staff is currently in the design phase for the Derick Davis and Martin Luther King Center (MLK) Gymnasium projects. These projects are also experiencing higher cost estimates than anticipated,” according to the request from City Manager Sterling Cheatham.

As approved the funds will now be allocated as such:

  • $200,000 to the North Waterfront Park Project to pay for design amendments and impact fees
  • $200,000 to the Municipal Clubhouse Improvement Project to pay for furnishing, fixtures and equipment
  • $1,085,861 to the Davis Center Gymnasium to assist with construction costs, with $925,000 coming from and $160,681 coming from Parks Capital Balances

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