NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Between the USS Battleship and Highway 17, just under 100 acres of land has been placed under contract for $16 million according to a release from Unique Places to Save.
The North Carolina nonprofit is membership-based, run by a five-member board and three-member staff, and focuses on entrepreneurism and creative ways to preserve and conserve land. According to its website, the goal is to break down barriers and address “unmet needs” in ecological resilience, community development, conservation and ways to integrate technology and nature.
The nonprofit collaborates with like-minded community partners, including land trusts, municipalities, businesses, developers, specialized contractors and augmented reality technology firms.
Its latest pursuit is to circumvent Eagles Island from undergoing future development. Since 2015, Diamondback Development has owned the land, some of which formerly housed industrial activities as far back as the 1800s. A portion of the acreage is subject to a brownfield agreement, which was slated to house the 100-foot Wilmington Hotel and Spa, presented to local officials last fall.
Permits were in place for developer Bobby Ginn to break ground on the hotel, but, according to the Wilmington Business Journal, Unique Places to Save put down $100,000 to secure its current purchase contract. It must raise $16 million by the end of the year for the conservation plan to formulate and is hoping donors — public and private — come through in its mission. If it doesn’t secure the funds, the hotel’s plans will move forward.
Local environmentalists, residents and historic preservationists have spoken out against the development of this area — and other areas on the west portion of the riverbanks — due to wetlands and its vast historical value, an area rife with Gullah-Geechee heritage.
Unique Places to Save takes a three-pronged approach to its preservation projects — first acquiring the land and then preserving habitats for fish and wildlife in ecological and hydrologic restoration.
It also implements ways to make the area more resilient to coastal storms and flooding.
Thereafter the nonprofit goes into the park development phase, to include outdoor recreation, cultural and historic interpretation and educational outreach.
In addition to the 83 acres, Unique Places to Save has secured 116 acres south of U.S. Highway 17. It is part of a $2.6 million coastal stream restoration project on Alligator Creek, located 2 miles downstream from the Brunswick River. The restoration will offset hazardous waste dumped on Navassa’s Kerr-McGee Chemical Corps Superfund site.
The creek project is funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Damage Assessment Response and Restoration Program under the direction of the Natural Resource Trustee Council (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and NC Department of Environmental and Natural Resources).
The nonprofit group applied for grants for Eagles Island as well, according to the StarNews. Money could possibly come in from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund (NCLWF) to help preserve the area.
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