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Cashie River

 
 

On November 16, 2015 the Bertie County Board of Commissioners took action to acquire 137 acres of land on the Albemarle Sound. By unanimous vote the County’s governing body approved the expenditure of $1,250,000 to secure public water access for recreation and tourism. Future plans may include a visitors center for hosting outdoor performing arts, and to serve as an educational venue for the natural sciences and historical exploration along the site’s 2,200 linear feet of coastal waters on the “inner banks” of North Carolina.

 

Beginning in early 2013, the Board of Commissioners identified four strategic business clusters: Agribusiness, Bio-mass and energy, Adventure Tourism and Waterfront development as areas of focus for the County’s economic development efforts. As initially envisioned, Bertie County’s “adventure tourism” efforts would capitalize on natural and wildlife resources for activities such as hunting, fishing, bird watching and eco-tourism activities such as hiking and canoeing.

 

“Providing public access to the County’s eastern boundary waters of the Chowan River and Albemarle Sound has been one of our top priorities for several years,” remarked Ronald Wesson, Chairman of the Board. Developing paddle trails and access to natural resources is a growing trend in Bertie County as evidenced by the Town of Windsor’s construction of multiple waterway access sites, and establishing camping platforms along the Cashie River.

 

Bertie County has a unique opportunity to build on its location as a “gateway community” to the Outer Banks by offering experiences that are unparalleled in the realm of historical, natural resources and eco-tourism. In an August 2015 New York Times article covering recent archeological findings for the noted Lost Colony on Roanoke Island, Merry Hill, NC was identified as a location where ceramics and other material of European origin, that might have come from Roanoke’s colonists. The article describes how British researchers re-examined historic coastal maps, which point to a spot on the western end of the Albemarle Sound near the outlets of the Chowan River and Salmon Creek in Bertie County. Commissioner Stewart White noted that “interest in the story of the Lost Colony and the archeological activity in Bertie County is really growing.”

 

The County has also taken steps in recent months to partner with other local governments on a regional basis to promote eco-tourism, paddle trails for canoeing and kayaking and other attractions for visitors to northeastern North Carolina, which is described as “balancing nature and commerce.” Vice Chairman Tammy Lee represents the Bertie County on this regional initiative.

 

The Board of Commissioners is seeking several grant opportunities such as the North Carolina Park and Recreation Trust Fund, reported Bertie County’s economic developer Steve Biggs, “which should provide additional funds to develop this site in coming years.” Chairman Wesson stated that “this Board’s firm expectation is that this transaction will not negatively impact the County’s tax rate.”

 

The County is using funds from cash reserves, primarily from its water system enterprise fund which had borrowed monies from the General Fund to subsidize its start-up operations in the 1990s. The General Fund loaned $855,000 to Water District II over several fiscal years, which will now be reimbursed as part of this transaction. The Board’s action included the transfer of $855,000 from Water District II cash reserves to the General Fund as repayment for this loan. The County’s General Fund will provide the remaining $395,000 from its fund balance reserves. Commissioner John Trent further clarified that “this is a cash transaction, with no additional debt for the County, and demonstrates what can be accomplished with good fiscal management.”

 

Commissioner Ernestine Bazemore shared with the citizens in the audience that the County needs your input, stating “we want to hear from you and to understand your interest and your ideas in seeing this project develop.”

 

In the coming weeks, the Board of Commissioners will look to engage a planning consultant to assist with development of a vision for the ultimate build out for this property to include road access, parking, restroom and picnic facilities in the first phase. Other potential amenities may include an outdoor performance stage on the waterfront, a heritage tourism and Lost Colony visitor education center in the second phase. “The possibilities are unlimited” said Chairman Wesson, referring to swimming for children, adventure programming through the Cooperative Extension Service’s 4-H clubs, hosting corporate outings, family reunions, and church events including river baptisms in the shallow sandy waters on the shoreline. “Educational field trips for school children, a vacation spot for local families and hosting visitors from across the State and region are also possible with this investment, which will serve many generations into the future,” said Wesson.

 

“This was a team effort with the Board of Commissioners fully engaged from the outset” noted County Manager Scott Sauer. The Board set high expectations for this project and everyone performed in an exceptional manner said Chairman Wesson, giving special thanks to the County’s legal team Lloyd Smith and Jonathan Huddleston, Finance Officer William Roberson, Planning Director Traci White and project leadership from Economic Developer Steve Biggs.

 


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