Craven County receives land for new 172-acre nature park

Great Egret (NBN Photo)
Great Egret (NBN Photo)

Land that will make up the largest nature park in the area was officially turned over to Craven County this week. 

On Tuesday, Dec. 19 North Carolina Coastal Land Trust transferred the deed for the 172-acre Brices Creek Nature Preserve to the county. The property is located off of both Old Airport Road and County Line Road near the entrance to Blue Water Rise.

In Nov. 2022, Craven County was approved for a $500,000 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant to go towards the development of the property in partnership with Bass Pro Shops and N.C. Coastal Land Trust, which purchased the land for approximately $1.5 from White River Marine Group, the North Carolina Land and Water Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the North Carolina Community Foundation’s Richard Chapman Cleve Fund.

The Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant required a $100,000 match from the county, which was covered by a $160,000 donation from Bass Pro Shops.

When completed the new park will be the largest in Craven County, besting the 132-acre Latham-Whitehurst Nature Park, which was established in 2008 when the Coastal Land Trust purchased land along Upper Broad Creek and transferred it to the county. 

Plans for the new park call for a creek walk and a lengthy loop trail as well as bike trails, picnic facilities, kayak access and restrooms.

Parks and Recreation Director Billy Wilkes said internal work on the park should get started next month.

“We’ve already started working with the county engineer on making sure that everything we want to do can be done,” he commented.

Wilkes said work with contractors will likely begin next spring, with an anticipated opening date in early 2025. 

“I’m obviously excited to get it started and we should get rolling as quickly as the new year rolls around,” Wilkes said.

Wilkes has described the area where the park will be located as less flat than other parts of the county, with undulating hills and a mix of hardwood pine and cypress-gum swamp forests. He said visitors will be able to take a kayak from Creekside Park and reach the new recreation area over a distance of about 6 miles.

“You’ll be able to launch a kayak, you’ll have bike trails and walking trails and a picnic shelter and restroom facility,” Wilkes noted. “But we really want to keep it as close to intact as we can, only taking out little stuff to produce enough area for trails. It is a beautiful piece of property, so we want to keep it that way.” 

County Manager Jack Veit said progress on the new park had taken longer than anticipated.

“It got caught up in the paperwork churn but it’s now ready to go,” Veit told the Board of Commissioners Monday. “We’re very excited about that. It’s been a project that has been well received by the public.”

Veit said the new nature park will provide a recreation outlet for growing residential developments such as Carolina Colours and Blue Water Rise and “preserve what is one of the most beautiful pieces of property in Craven County.”

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.