RALEIGH — Black River State Park input: take two.
The state of North Carolina recently announced it will be holding an additional open house to garner input on the feasibility of a state park on the Black River in Sampson, Bladen, and Pender counties. Scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 16, from 5 to 7 p.m. in Ivanhoe, the event will give attendees the opportunity to talk with Division of Parks and Recreation staff about concerns expressed at prior public meetings.
Under consideration is the development of an 2,600-acre area that includes 45 miles of the Black River corridor. The region begins at the Colly Creek/Black River confluence and extends north along the Black River into Sampson County where Six Runs Creek and the Great Coharie River converge. The portion lying in Bladen County includes Henry’s Landing, Sparkleberry Landing, The Narrows, and Hunts Bluff.
Prized for its large cypress trees — some of which are more than 1,600 years old — the area is a popular destination with paddlers. Due to the absence of state park facilities in Sampson County, the state park system sees the area as being “underserved” and selected the region after a review of archaeological, historic, biological, geological, and scenic themes.
“One of the big benefits of having a state park is the nature conservation,” said Dave Head, planning program manager with the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. “Conservation groups have limited staff, and (the state park system) could manage the land with controlled burns that would really get the land back to the way it used to be 2,000 years ago.”
The meetings are being held at the behest of legislators. In March, when House Bill 353 was introduced to the N.C. General Assembly requesting they approve development of the area, legislators directed the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation to conduct the study and report the results to the Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources by March 1, 2018.
“The study will create a vision for what a state park, natural area, or trail could look like, including what amenities would be most important to nearby communities and other potential users,” according to a press release from the state park system. “It will include an evaluation of the natural and cultural heritage significance of the area, whether it meets criteria to be part of the state park system, the suitability of the Black River for recreation, and a cost estimate for developing the park.”
The state is studying the feasibility of three different types of state park units:
— State parks, which can accommodate the development of facilities while balancing any damage of scenic or natural features,
— State natural areas, which are focused on preserving and protecting areas of scientific, aesthetic, or ecological value and have limited facilities, and
— State trails, which promote access to natural and scenic areas within North Carolina.
The Ivanhoe event is a follow-up to an initial round of three meetings, which, according to the Division of Parks and Recreation, were attended by approximately 200 people. Held in September, open houses in each county resulted in a variety of opinions about the development, including some strong ones in Bladen County.
“It’s already beautiful, and adding 60,000 people is only going to ruin it,” said Donna Sykes, who lives in the area being studied.
Other attendees voiced concerns about the impact a large number of people would have on fishing, as well as the effect on local farms and the ability of law enforcement to access the area.
Those speaking in favor of the idea included Elizabethtown businessman David Clark, who spoke about an area of long-leaf pines he used to frequent as a child that is no longer standing.
“If we want places for our grandchildren, and their grandchildren after them, to enjoy, we better be doing everything we can to conserve our natural resources now,” he commented.
Head also added the possible economic benefit of having visitors camping in the area and spending money in local restaurants and shops.
The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation invites residents to give feedback on the idea by visiting ncparks.gov/black-river.
The open house will take place Nov. 16 at the Ivanhoe Fire Department, located at 18933 N.C. 210 East in Ivanhoe.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing email@example.com.