Friday, August 19, 2022

City to offload unkept, water-logged baseball park to NC Ports

Optimist Park could soon be sold to the North Carolina Ports Authority, which plans to use the property as a buffer. (Port City Daily photo/Staff)
Optimist Park could soon be sold to the North Carolina Ports Authority, which plans to use the property as a buffer. (Port City Daily photo/Staff)

WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington is looking to sell Optimist Park to the North Carolina Ports Authority.

Located at the end of Carolina Beach Road and the beginning of Front Street, the 11.3-acre property long hosted little league and T-ball city programs through the Optimist Club of Wilmington.

Featuring three baseball fields, a press box, and restrooms, the property is now overgrown and suffers from standing water. The city marks Hurricane Florence as a turning point in the upkeep of the park, which left water on the fields for months on end, thus making maintenance impossible. Machines were getting stuck in the mud, according to the city.

The city even attempted to add 50 cubic yards of dirt to the site to reduce the standing water with no success. At an unknown time in the 20th century, the property was used as a dumping ground for World War II materials. This use has landed the site on the state’s North Carolina Pre-Regulatory Landfill program, which prevents nearby ditches from being cleared to assist stormwater without the establishment of a remedial action plan.

Appraised for $350,000, only 6.3 acres of site are usable; wetlands and a utility easement limits use on the remainder of the property. Plus, a forthcoming N.C. Department of Transportation set to widen South Front Street would “severely impact” the continued use of the site as a park, according to the city.

On Aug. 11, the N.C. Ports Authority offered to purchase the land for its appraised value. The port plans to use the land as a buffer between its activities on the rail line and residential development, according to the proposal letter.

If sold, the proceeds would be directed to the city’s general fund.


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