By Brian Slattery, staff writer for the Beacon.
Brunswick County planners are working to spur greenway development by applying for a $17 million grant to build a 12.3-mile off-road multi-use trail from N.C. 211 and Midway Road in Oak Island to N.C. 87 in Boiling Spring Lakes.
Planning director Kirstie Dixon said the department learned the U.S. Department of Transportation Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, discretionary grant program was accepting applications in June and worked with Oak Island, Boiling Spring Lakes and the developer of Pine Forest Plantation, a 2,114-acre site at Midway Road and N.C. 211, to submit an application as a public-private partnership.
“BUILD grants are usually for urban areas. This year the funding was marked for rural projects,” she said. “A lot of money was earmarked. North Carolina is supposed to receive $150 million. The grant is meant for larger projects from $1 million to $25 million.”
Dixon said her department had to find a project and ensure it could complete the grant application in less than two months. Staff learned Pine Forest, which plans to develop more than 2,500 residential housing units in a retirement community that will offer a medical campus, was already planning to offer miles of running, walking and biking trails.
Working together on the submission, Pine Forest committed to provide a cash contribution, as well as land and public access easements for the greenway trail, which would include a 10-foot-wide hard surface asphalt pathway and raised boardwalk in wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas.
“We’re lucky because that is all in the pre-development stage. It’s the perfect time to plan and design a greenway trail,” Dixon said. “That land might not be available in the future.”
Dixon said the trail would run from Pine Forest to Boiling Spring Lakes City Hall. “This could be a really, really great thing,” she said. “There isn’t even vehicle access from Oak Island to BSL.”
The route, called the Brunswick County Greenway Trail in the application, would provide an alternative mode of transportation for the county, not just a source of recreation, Dixon added.
The planning department received a resolution of support for the greenway trail from county commissioners, who voted unanimously for it as part of the consent agenda of their July 19 meeting.
Dixon said they sent out the application immediately and along with the county board’s blessing received 120 letters of support from individuals and organizations, including the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Cape Fear Rural Transportation Planning Organization and Brunswick Transit System.
Dixon said they don’t anticipate receiving word if the greenway proposal was approved until December.