RALEIGH — Another round of meetings concerning an additional state park in Bladen County is soon to come.
Last month, the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation held an open house at the Bladen County Public Library’s main branch in Elizabethtown. The purpose of the meeting was to conduct a General Assembly-mandated study concerning the feasibility of establishing a state park along the Black River in Bladen, Pender and Sampson counties.
Bladen County was the first of three open houses, followed by similar meetings in Pender and Sampson counties. At the session held in the Mother County, Planning Program Manager Dave Head said the next step would be determined by the results of the first three meetings.
This week, the park system announced it will be holding additional information sessions in the three counties.
“It’s still too early to say that we have overall results yet,” said Carol Pingley, with N.C. Parks and Recreation. “Our intention with all the meetings is to answer as many questions as possible.”
Pingley said the meetings will probably be scheduled for November, and additional information will be forthcoming as to the location, date, and time. Everyone who is on the Black River Feasibility Study email list — possible by attending the meetings or signing up on the park system’s web site — will be notified as well.
As for the tone of the other two meetings, Pingley only said, “Each meeting was a little bit different. Typical of any kind of decision, there will be some people for it and some people against, and those are for a variety of reasons.”
The third and final meeting of the first round — held in Sampson county and attended by some of the same people at the Bladen County session — like the ones before it, saw that variety of responses.
Chris Barnhill, a Bladen County resident who lives near the river, voiced concerns at the third meeting that being close to a potential park would result in taxpayers incurring financial burden. Others, like Harold Corbett, who owns three miles on the river, are concerned about trash caused by high traffic in the area.
Retired U.S. Army veteran Russell DeVane is in favor of the park. He left Ivanhoe about 30 years ago but returned to the area.
“Ivanhoe is still the same,” he said. “No growth whatsoever. Whenever I see growth, I see job opportunities. If there’s job opportunities it’s going to benefit a lot of people.”
DeVane said there are educational opportunities with state parks too, especially with the historical trees of the Black River.
“A lot of people haven’t seen that, and I think it would be good for a lot of people to know and see that these cypress trees exist,” he said. “It’s great history for all of us.”
Ivanhoe residents Mellie Bradley and Shirley DeVane also support the idea of having a park.
“It’s a good way to exercise in a safe environment,” one of them said, referring to a walking trail.
Some worry that it will increase traffic in the area, but Bradley said that’s a good thing. With more people visiting the area, she said, officials might make road improvements.
“There’s nothing negative, especially for something like a park,” Bradley commented.
Additional information about the Black River study is available at www.ncparks.gov/black-river, where interested people can leave comments and sign up to receive updates.
“It’s still too early to say that we have overall results yet,” Pingley commented.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.