Category Archives: COMMUNITY

Requiem for a small town: Belhaven

By Joe Salotti | Guest Commentary

The town of Belhaven has two primary assets. Without them, Belhaven cannot survive. These are: 1) The good, honest, caring, and taxpaying citizens; 2) The view and relationship with the waters around the town, which have given the community its purpose for existence.

These very elements of survival, as a town, have been challenged by their loss for many years. Unfortunately, the loss of industry and resources has had a big impact on the economy of the area. It is not this loss that is paramount to the heart of Belhaven. It is the loss of the spirit of purpose that our forefathers, and foremothers, had in building this town — born of need and caring for humanity. The spirit of Belhaven has been replaced by the inbreeding of the old money and good-ole-boy syndrome. The economy of the Belhaven area has been feeding off itself for too long, fueled for the most part by some distant jobs, Social Security, Welfare, and Small Businesses.

An economy is not perpetual; it goes up, down, or simply grinds to a halt. Belhaven’s economy is dying, and the town is in decay. You just have to look around to see it. It does not have to be this way.

We are not going to have to wait for the economy to die because the factions that created and prolonged the issues of the old hospital in Belhaven are killing it – and the spirit of the town with it. The one main element that is missing from the efforts of these folks is the interest and consideration for the health and welfare of the populace of the Region.

The Mayor — with his chest pounding, political posturing, and adolescent behavior — has demoralized the town. He has embarrassed the town among the populace, throughout the region and state. With his questionable tactics, such as the ‘Good-ole-boy Utilities Give Away,’ he has stretched the moral fiber of the Townspeople. He has done nothing for the betterment of the town or its citizens and needs to turn in his resignation, post haste.

The Pantego Creek LLC and its managers formed a special interest group. Though well intended, this group compromised a key element of Belhaven’s future: The town’s view and relationship with the waters that surround it. The LLC has bolstered the old hospital for nostalgia, not for the health interest of this region.

Those of you who comprise the LLC have had your 15 minutes in the spotlight; now it is time to help save the Town of Belhaven. All the property of the old hospital should be signed over to the Town for the use of its citizens — never to be sold. If not, the Town of Belhaven should take the property under eminent domain and pay each member of the LLC, one dollar, for its consideration.

The LLC should build a pencil factory (or something using local products) that would put revenue back into the town and put some citizens to work. The waterfront should be developed for the use of its people. If a Developer should get this property and builds a structure like the Day Beacon, it will seal the fate of Belhaven to a few well to do people and provide little overall value to the town.

On this site could be built the Belhaven Regional Civic Mall. It would be built 12 feet off the ground to preserve the view of the harbor from Pamlico Street and the surrounding area. The people could see and enjoy Haven’s Walk. The boardwalk would go from the Wildlife Access to the Charlie Smith Community House and beyond — but that is another story.

You know that in its heyday of 1923, Belhaven had a boardwalk with a Pavilion. There was music, dancing, movies, fishing, and people. The Civic Mall would include a 200 stadium-seat Cultural Arts Theatre — to be used for events, all types of shows, and the likes of the Tuesday night jam sessions. There would be a true regional history museum that would be established and run by the NC Department of History. There would be a small gift shop, public space for meetings and events and maybe a coffee shop of sorts, operated by locals for all the Townspeople and a tourist or two, if they come, and they will. There would be a covered deck all around so that the people could sit and watch the sunsets. The building would be atop concrete pillars; the building would be of materials and designed to withstand the worst of hurricanes. You see, this Mall would also be a refuge, equipped for the people, if need be.

On Sept. 2, 1913, there was a great hurricane that pretty well wiped out the Town of Belhaven. At that time, the 100-year flood elevation was set at 7.4 feet above mean sea level. There was five feet or more of water and debris that stood in the downtown businesses. What does that tell you, folks?

In 1948, the Belhaven Hospital was built flat on the ground. Later, new additions were built on slightly raised areas. It was built like a sponge, of cinder block and brick veneer; with a lot of gapes and hidden air pockets. Then came high water events: Hurricane Hazel, Diane, Bertha, and Fran. Hurricane Fran was especially bad with eight feet of water filling the streets of downtown Belhaven. The torrents of rain and damaging winds tore at the old sentinel of health.

There was tropical storm Josephine; and then came Hurricane Bonnie and others that soaked the base of the hospital even with the levee walls. Along with the leaky roofs the structure became a culture tray for germs, bacteria, mold, and mildew; with the potential for unhealthy levels of airborne contamination and respiratory illnesses. You know the adage, “that a boat is a hole in the water where you throw money!” Well, the old hospital could no longer float.  There has to be a whole lot of credit given to the good people who built the hospital, the doctors, the nurses, and the staff, that endured the hardships of a hospital under siege and provide a good level of care. They had to care about the people, and it is sad that today’s healthcare can’t be the same. It is the almighty buck that is the plague of our time.

Now; what of Vidant and a new hospital? It is well established, at this time, that Vidant is dedicated to the many clauses of your insurance policy and if you don’t have one they are not dedicated at all. The new facility in Belhaven is hardly more than a half-staffed doctor’s office. Some of the doctors may have a heart but the business does not. If Vidant is not going to provide the services that the people — all the people — need and want,  then their charter in the Town of Belhaven and the county of Beaufort must be revoked and they should get out.

If we are forced to drive 30 to 50 miles for decent healthcare, we don’t need them to tell us which direction to go. The terms of healthcare are humanity, not a corporate bottom line. Our Town, County, State, and Federal leaders will have to see that it is built and it will have a fully functional Emergency Room; if the people come together and demand it so.

The people of the region of Pantego, Pungo, and the Pamlico, the County of Beaufort, the State of North Carolina, and the government of the USA should build a proper hospital in Belhaven to serve up to 20,000 people. It would be central to the town. The building will be high and dry and of the materials and design to withstand a tidal surge, winds of 300 mph, and maintain function in any kind of weather. A hospital in this region is not just healthcare — it is a refuge for the people; when Mother Nature gets angry with how we treat her land and resources; but that, is another story.

Since its beginning, Belhaven has had many tragedies: natural, commercial, and industrial. Many times the Townspeople reinvented or rebuilt the town. Today there are a few young entrepreneurs who are trying to swim against the tide of adversity but it does not bring the people and the industry that is needed. The old guard and old money is diluted and dying; their children’s children have left or are leaving. The grand old houses are too expensive to fix or even to tear down and few taxes are paid. They go to rot with the shame that the town will not see that justice is done and leave them to memory. The houses that are renovated are done so beyond their value. These houses can be sold to the unsuspecting buyer; who soon finds that Belhaven is not what it seems.

It sounds pretty bad, does it not? It is true that this is not Mayberry and there is no joke here. Have you noticed that there has been a lot of turnover in personnel in the Town Hall over these last few months? Of course, it is not just the fault of the Mayor and his handy clan. It is the cartel of good-ole-boys who run the town from the local diners instead of the Town Hall meetings. They don’t want the town to change as long as they have the influence. The problem is that we, THE  PEOPLE, do not make the effort to elect good leaders and go to the meetings to ensure that the town is being served now and for the future. Do you realize that for every family that accepted the Good-Ole-Boy Utilities Give Away, there is a person who has stolen from his neighbor; trying to get something for nothing; and sell their vote without care for the Town and its people? There are, or should be, programs to help the less fortunate.

Belhaven’s issues at hand need to be resolved. Our citizens need to be united under a competent leadership with some common sense to redefine a purpose such as our forebears had in building the town.

If there is to be a serious change to save the Town of Belhaven, then it will take the voices and support of every citizen of the Town and those in the Region. The book “Town of Belhaven Centennial” gives witness to the fact that, it can be done. In 1914, the 7th grade of the Belhaven graded school was given the challenge to organize their class for a special event. They accepted the challenge and penned the motto “Find a Way or Make a Way.”

What could be more fitting for our challenge of today?

The Town of Belhaven is dying of neglect and decay. Of course, if this is what the people of Belhaven wants of its heritage; then Amen is the only thing left to say. It does not have to be this way.

Truly Inclusive Playground to Open in Pamlico County

Playground provides opportunity for individuals of all ages and abilities to play together

(Click on photo to enlarge)




Property Owners raise $2.75 million for purchase of 385 acres, including golf courses

By Gayle Albertini

FAIRFIELD HARBOUR – In late December, Fairfield Harbour Property Owners Association purchased 385 acres, collectively known as the Amenities Property, for $2.75 Million from MidSouth Golf LLC – a third party owner since 2000.

The acreage consists of Birdland Marina, Shoreline Marina, Harbour Pointe Golf Course, and open space once known as Shoreline Golf Course.

In June of 2016 — after lengthy negotiations — MidSouth Golf presented its offer to sell. A community vote, required to purchase the Amenities Property, passed overwhelmingly on August 17th.

A loan for the purchase amount was a requirement but repayment could not legally come from FHPOA dues paid by its members, according to the NC state courts. Community restrictions for repayment of a loan for real property had to come from non-dues income such as proceeds from the Harbour Pointe golf course managed by Billy Casper Golf, the marinas and other POA sources.

The option to borrow money from commercial banks was pursued immediately in order to meet the end-of-year expiration of the property purchase offer. While lending institutions were being pursued, two separate groups were formed within Fairfield Harbour as another way or raising capital.

The first was Fairfield Harbour Partners (FH Partners), which offered Association members an investment alternative similar to the terms being offered by a bank. The second group, “Sponsor an Acre,” accepted contributions (or gifts) from those who wanted to help save the community’s property values by contributing toward the purchase.

In a short period of time, both of these community groups had commitments that collectively exceeded the $2.75 million requirement.

In the middle of December, the Fairfield Harbour Property Owners Association analyzed all loan options available and concluded that the terms of the FH Partners were more favorable. The property purchase closed before year-end, after nearly a decade of litigation with MidSouth Golf, which had cost the Property Owners Association significantly in legal expenses. The ownership of the Amenities Property will give Fairfield Harbour the ability to improve the property value for the benefit of all Association members. This purchase is expected to have a positive impact on home and lot sales.

The next step for Fairfield Harbour Property Owners Association is to determine the wants of the members in order to assess and evaluate suggestions for land use. Community spaces are thought of differently than they were 10 or 20 years ago. Open space needs to be more functional and flexible to grow with the changing times.

Fairfield Harbour is a gated, residential resort and retirement community located north of the Neuse River, approximately 10 miles from New Bern at the confluence of Upper Broad Creek and Northwest Creek. For more information, visit www.FairfieldHarbourNC.com

Own property in or near a flood prone area? Jan. 10 meeting better be on your ‘must attend’ list

BAYBORO – This is coming from a guy who owns waterfront property, and pays a ton of money each year to insure those assets. Pease join me in showing up for a meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10 where ‘newly released flood hazard and flood risk data’ will be explained.

The quotation cited above comes from an official press blurb issued by an entity known as the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program. They are with the government and, of course, they are coming here to help us!

On the agenda are new, ‘preliminary’ flood plain maps. Needless to say, I am leery. Hope to see you there!

The festivities happen on the second floor of the Bayboro Courthouse at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10.


 Pamlico County residents to get a look at new flood maps
Financial repercussions of preliminary study yet to be determined

SPECIAL TO THE COUNTY COMPASS

The North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program has scheduled a public meeting to familiarize the community with newly released flood hazard and flood risk data for Pamlico County. The session runs from 6 pm until 8 pm on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, at the Pamlico County Courthouse (second floor) in the County Commission meeting room.

County residents and other stakeholders will have the opportunity to review the revised data and ask questions of the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program staff.

Attendees should expect an open house format where citizens will have the opportunity to view the preliminary flood hazard data from among a number of computers and ask staff questions specific to the flood risk of their property.

The meeting may then have a brief presentation by North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program staff on the flood study update process, how the Flood Insurance Study can be used to reduce future losses due to flooding, and how the preliminary study relates to flood insurance and floodplain management.

Representatives from Pamlico County’s communities and the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program staff will be available to answer detailed questions and hear concerns. A demonstration may also be given of the North Carolina Flood Risk Information System, a tool allowing the public and local officials to view the new flood hazard data online.

In August 2000, the State of North Carolina established the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program with a mandate to maintain the flood hazard data and Flood Insurance Study for all counties within the State of North Carolina. In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency entered into an important partnership by designating the State of North Carolina a Cooperating Technical State. With this designation, North Carolina was given primary responsibility and ownership of the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for all North Carolina communities by the National Flood Insurance Program

Questions about the process, or the upcoming meeting, should be directed to Randy Mundt, the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program Outreach Coordinator, at (919) 715-5711 x119.

Class of ’75 celebrates Christmas

ALLIANCE – This close-knit group of former classmates at Pamlico County High School always carves out time each year for a Holiday Celebration. First row: Kenny Smith and Robert Boomer. Second row: Teresa Davis, Aquila Jones, Sally Watson Credle, Amelia Saunders, Betty Lou Barber, Vanessa Midgette, Barbara Wright, and Maddie Nelson. Third row: Garfield Credle, William Jones, Margaret Tatum Murrell, Delseia Moore, Hazel Credle, and Ricky Glasper. Fourth row: Darrell ‘Bouncer’ Jenkins, Roger Sawyer, and Jerry Gibbs.

Politically Un-Correct Hits the Mark!

untitled-1
Story and Photos by Terry Leigh McCune

This year’s annual Goose Creek Island Homecoming Play is a hilarious musical romp through our current political climate.


pic-1Ronald Rump and Mallory Clayton are running for the office of the Leader of Goose Creek Island.

 


 

pic-2

Rump wants to build a barrier on the bridge to limit undesirables. Mallory wants unlimited access to the island, even stating she would like to build a shoreline condo complex to cater to international clients.

pic-3


 

pic-4

There are senior citizens robbing banks and men dressed as women coming out of the new “Transformers” bathroom!

pic-9

 


 

pic-5
pic-6

From Rump being serenaded with “You’re So Vain” to Secret Service men dancing to “Men in Black”. There is even a beauty contest that has an interesting outcome! This play is great entertainment for all. Don’t miss it!

pic-8

 


pic-10

pic-11

The performances are October 20th, 21st, and 22nd at 7:30 p.m. at the Goose Creek Island Community Center in Hobucken, NC.

pic-12


Adults – $6.00, 6-12 years – $4.00, under 6 – free. Come early for supper at 6:00 p.m. Hot Dogs, Chili Boats, Baked Goods, Popcorn and Drinks.

The Voice of the People for a better Aurora/Richland Township

ad-aurora-full-page-b-and-w-on-b-6

Hello, Aurora/Richland Township!

Welcome to our first issue of the “The VOICE of the People for a Better Aurora Richland Township”. My name is Eve Hemby and I serve as a Community Or- ganizer for the People for a Better Aurora/Richland Township. Our role and purpose in this community is simple. We organize activities that bring people together to help make our community better economically. The “People” are anyone in the community working toward common goals. So then, if you are a “People” mak- ing Aurora better, then you are a People for a Better Aurora/Richland Township. All the work we do is geared toward that end.

Now you may look around our community and say, “Ain’t nothing happening in Aurora! They don’t even have a grocery store. Aurora is GOING DOWN!”

But I am here to tell you that you have never been more wrong in your entire life. The truth is THE Aurora/Richland Township is on the cusp of greatness. Even in spite our losses, our setbacks are not an anomaly. When other communities face loss, they come together and work toward being great again. We can do this as well. We are a town with great and tremendous resources, from our rich phosphorous laden land that is great for growing crops to the beautiful waterfront area full of osprey, Canadian geese and the best fish you’ve ever eaten, There is no reason why we cannot promote this greatness.

Now, do we have challenges? ABSOLUTELY! Just like any other community.

But that’s where we all come into play. There are solutions to our problems. Some solutions might require us to grow as people in skill sets and leadership, other solu- tions might require for us to be courageous enough to ASK and RECEIVE help from others. EITHER WAY….there are solutions.

And so, this is why the “PEOPLE” are here and will be here in this paper over the next few months. We want to help inform the community of the solutions available to the challenges we face and encourage you to GET INVOLVED. Articles are written and composed by YOUR local community leaders, designed to empower, compel and enlighten you on what is available to you and in your community.

I would love to hear your feedback if you have any. Feel free to visit our page: http://www. gro wauro ra. o rg for updates on current Township-Wide events, the schedule of activities and happenings in our communities. Also, you may access information on our facebook page. Type in People for a Better Aurora in your search field and it should take you there.

hembryAgain, we are open to suggestions and feedback. So feel free to reach out to me directly as I can be reached at (252)228-1730 or evehemby@lhndc.org.

Happy Reading!,
Eve Hemby


Faith & Family

By Elder Barry Squires

In 2010, the call of Christ on my life brought me back to the small church community I left 20 years prior. What began as a journey to continue the spiritual legacy of my father, has become a drive to save and revitalize a valuable, but struggling community. In the six years that I have collaborated with local faith-based organizations to nurture the spiritual health of our community, it has become evident that our spiritual efforts are only one part of the work. Our community requires economic development and strategic planning as part of the transformation into a healthy, whole community. More important- ly, economic development can be a part of the work of the church and is not in conflict with our spiritual work.

We have the ability to support and promote local entrepreneurship. It is my hope that faith-based or- ganizations can begin to use our resources to spark economic growth. Some opportunities may include offering small business grants to potential local entrepreneurs, accessing our community for goods and services and buying local, collaborating with local governments to create school-to-business pipelines to sponsor high school graduates in technical programs and provide local business opportunities for them in the community.

Our spiritual work in the community is on-going and is a priority of the church, but our work can no longer be confined to the physical church and traditional outreach.

I believe the churches’ support of economic development enhances our reach to the community we serve and leads us to wholeness.

Elder Barry Squires is the Senior Pastor of St. Peter Baptist Church located in Aurora, NC. St. Peter Baptist Church supports the community through its hosting of collaborative community wide events (Community Health Fair, Forum, Tent Revival and Back to School Bash) that helps promotes the spiritual and natural health and well being of the Richland Township. For more information on how you can connect to the work of this ministry, Elder Squires can be reached at (919)410-7803.

Credit Belhaven mayor, NAACP for ‘tenacity and perseverance’ in fight against Vidant

tcc051116p1a
By Betty Murphy

BELHAVEN – Saturday, April 30, may well have been a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment when Belhaven town officials and the NAACP hosted a press conference to announce jointly filed federal complaints — an integral part of the evolving Save Our Hospital movement!

It has been two years since Greenville-based medical behemoth Vidant Health closed Belhaven’s beloved Pungo District Hospital. In most hearts and minds of this rural community (and to many knowledgeable outsiders), Vidant Health never intended to keep Pungo Hospital operating!

It all came to a head on April 30th. Rev. William Barber, leader of the North Carolina NAACP Chapter joined Belhaven Mayor O’Neal in a ‘no holds barred’ media event. The two men jointly announced the filing of a formal Anti-Trust Complaint with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Rev. Barber also filed for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division into the surprise removal of Superior Court Judge Milton Fitch, Jr. from a case remanded to him, allegedly without notice.

Judge Fitch, who is black, was replaced with a white judge. Was proper court process followed?

O’Neal filed a lengthy and detailed Anti-Trust Complaint citing numerous allegations against Vidant and Pantego Creek, LLC. Several exhibits were included in support of the allegations.

Pungo District Hospital, like many rural hospitals, has been no stranger to financial problems — having filed bankruptcy in 2001.

Facing costs associated with overstaffing, fiscal mismanagement, failure to install federally mandated technology, and a variety of other concerns, the board of directors for Pungo District Hospital desperately sought a way to keep the facility open.

At the same time, Vidant Health was acquiring two area midsize hospitals (in Duplin and Beaufort counties) that were also floundering financially — in amounts far greater than Pungo’s $1.5 million annual deficit.

Rural hospitals are seldom profitable. If they break even, they are doing well.

Some have raised concerns about the current financial status of Vidant Beaufort Hospital, located in Washington. Since 2011, Vidant’s obscure financial reporting has become even worse. Blame an accounting procedure known as ‘Consolidated Reporting’ in which financial data for all of Vidant Health is blended and combined into an indecipherable mush.

Even the individual practices of physicians (outside hospitals) – an entity known as Vidant Medical Group — are no longer reported separately, making a mockery of promises for greater transparency.

More and more pieces of this tangled mess are coming to light. Many believe Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal has laid his personal and political life on the line for town residents. Few individuals possess the tenacity and perseverance to take a stand against injustices such as those that have been visited upon Belhaven citizens.

On the other hand, Pantego Creek, LLC, the current owner of the former hospital building and site in Belhaven, is apparently indebted to Vidant.

Records show $50,000 going as seed money to set up an entity for Tax Exempt Status, with another $10,000 for the actual application.

Insiders say a process that should have taken six months instead ended up taking three years, from September 2011 until October 2014.

After several attempts Pantego Creek, LLC. received IRS 501-c-3 status with a specific category, known as Section 509 (a) (3): Supporting Organizations – an organization that is organized and operated exclusively for the benefit of one or more organizations.”

According to the IRS 990 annual reports, the stated mission of Pantego Creek, LLC is to:

“To support Pungo District Hospital …to ensure compliance with the operating agreement signed between Pungo District Hospital and Vidant Medical Center.”

Those familiar with this saga contend Pantego Creek, LLC.’s stated mission and sole purpose as submitted to the IRS became invalid when Vidant Health closed Pungo District Hospital and transferred the property deed to Pantego Creek, LLC.

Pantego Creek’s reluctance to release the property deed to the Town of Belhaven may be a sign that they no longer trust Vidant to live up to its commitment. In June, Vidant plans to open a new Medical Office Building not far from the former hospital.

In a request to the NC Department of Health and Human Services seeking an exemption from the Certificate of Need requirement, Vidant Health stated no new services will be offered and since Vidant intends to pay for the Medical Office Building out of reserve funds, no state oversight should be required.

The initial cost summary submitted estimated the Medical Office Building would cost $4.3 million – a figure that is now reported as closer to $6 million. The property is now deeded to Vidant Medical Group (Physicians) for tax purposes.

There is some question of the utilization of the helipad, which requires stabilization of patients being transferred by helicopter. The fact remains 25,000 individuals are being denied emergency services in a rural area in which life-threatening accidents are a known factor.

There is a sense of urgency here in Belhaven. One member of Pantego Creek, LLC has suggested demolition of the former hospital might be ordered. In recent weeks, an environmental contractor was hired – one of the first steps prior to any demolition.

Town residents have taken this threat seriously and have setup a 24/7 encampment across from the former hospital building, presumably to thwart any bulldozers that might show up.

In 2014, Vidant Health agreed “to contribute an amount up to $800,000” for the express purpose “to demolish and remove all or any improvements…..” to the (hospital) property. Additionally Vidant offered extensive help in vetting a demolition contractor, obtaining a fixed price proposal and assured Pantego Creek, LLC of ‘assistance’ if the price proposal were to exceed the original $800,000 estimate.

It all came to a head on April 30th. Reverend William Barber, State NAACP Head, joined Mayor O’Neal in a Press Conference to end all press conferences. No holds barred! They jointly announced the filing of a formal Anti Trust Complaint with U.S.Attorney General Loretta Lynch to an audience of about 50 residents, NC NAACP representatives and Belhaven town officials.

Rev. Barber filed for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division into the surprise removal of Superior Court Judge Milton Fitch, Jr. from the case remanded to him, allegedly without notice. Judge Fitch is one of a few minority Judges in Eastern NC. He was replaced with a white judge. Was proper court process followed?

Mayor O’Neal filed a lengthy detailed Anti Trust Complaint citing numerous allegations against Vidant and Pantego Creek, Llc. Several exhibits were included substantiating the allegations. Clean Hands and Transparency are not now and never have been strong suits of Vidant Health.

Large Homecoming crowd takes look back at 50 years of Portsmouth Village history

WEB-post--50th-Homecoming-for-Portsmouth-Village

PORTSMOUTH ISLAND ON THE OUTBANKS – The official Homecoming photo was one of many highlights from the Saturday, April 30, celebration! See complete story with many more photos in the May 5 issue of The County Compass.

Visit Vandemere soon! You’ll love this spot!

Before

NEWS1-Vandemere-BEFORE-boat-ramp-pic

In a photo from late summer of 2015, the original boat ramp was not much to look at.


After

Forget the term ‘ramp.’ The site is now a gleaming ‘Boating Access Area!’

Forget the term ‘ramp.’ The site is now a gleaming ‘Boating Access Area!’

VANDEMERE — The new boat ramp here is beautiful. However, multiple state agencies involved would prefer that you call the completely transformed eight-acre site a Boating Access Area.

Better yet, according to Vandemere Mayor Judy Thaanum, Town Manager Tom Woodruff, and a host of the community’s elected officials and regular rank-and-file citizens, an even better moniker is Vandemere Waterfront Park.

No matter what the name, suffice it to say that this spot – at 86 Griffin Road — will undoubtedly become an economic blessing for a nook of Pamlico County, still reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irene in August of 2011.

Woodruff knows well how many miracles — both small and large – that it took to pull this thing off. First of all, he credits Mrs. Catherine Pratt and her late husband Fred “for patiently working with the Town and offering financing options that made the grant opportunities, which came later, possible.”

The Pratts were prior owners of the site, which straddles Log Pond Creek – where boaters put in their craft to quickly reach vast stretches of Bay River, and ultimately Pamlico Sound.

Once the deal with the Pratts had been locked down, Thaanum and Woodruff made the rounds of almost every state agency involved with fishing, boating, marine-related development – you name it. Slowly, incrementally, piece-by-piece – with several significant setbacks along the way – a plan came together.

More than one tedious, time-consuming, meticulous application to the Division of Marine Fisheries eventually ‘hooked’ a grant, which is funded from fees paid by anglers to acquire their Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses. Most of that money went to pay the Pratts, who had been more than patient!

Next, Woodruff was relentless in pushing the location “as just perfect” for the county’s fourth boating access area, to be developed and constructed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Who could turn him down? Woodruff was irrepressible – and he always showed up prepared when pitching his dream. Ultimately, the OK came in – but then the state’s budget cuts upset the apple cart.

Woodruff, not to be denied, bided his time. More than two years ago, his wait paid off!

“I can’t say enough about the folks at the Wildlife Resources Commission,” exclaimed Woodruff. “They have been a huge asset to Vandemere throughout the entire process. Without their unwavering support, this project would not have been funded or completed.”

But wait! There’s more. When you visit the park (and you surely will) the most stunning, eye-catching amenities are what locals affectionately call “Hog Slat docks” and slips for transient boaters – credit a sizable grant from the Coastal Area Management Agency for those wonderful additions.

“We are already seeing the benefits,” explained Woodruff. “We have more interest in real estate, both for personal use and rentals. A number of commercial interests have expressed an interest. And, we are already receiving calls about use of the transient boat slips.”

The parking lot includes 32 spaces for vehicles and trailers, and 15 spaces for single cars, including three ADA-compliant spaces.

Although boaters are already ‘putting in,’ much work remains to be done, including upgrades to existing water and electricity utilities, improvements to gazebos and restrooms, installation of picnic tables and benches, lighting, and landscaping.

Vandemere is mighty proud of this new park – and rightly so! It is a beauty – whatever the name!