Emerald Isle plans to dedicate 20 acres of land to nature preservation

(Photo: Nate Belt)

EMERALD ISLE, Carteret County - Undeveloped land is hard to fnd along the Crystal Coast as time goes by, but one such area in Emerald Isle is the focus of preservation effort.

A 30 acre plot of land in the middle of Emerald Isle was recently purchased by a national group called The Conservation Fund. The group plans on transferring ownership to the town in the spring and it already has big plans for the area.

"We're very excited about it," Emerald Isle Mayor Eddie Barber said. "It's not only for this generation, but for the next generation. It's a great day for Emerald Isle and I'm so happy to be a part of it."

Barber said that the town has been working on acquiring the land for the past four years. The Conservation Fund bought the land for $3 million. It was originally zoned for condo and residential development, but the town has other ideas.

"As a community, we look at it as a long term investment," Frank Rush, Emerald Isle City Manager, said. "An investment in the environment, preserving 20 acres, but also an investment in the youth of Emerald Isle."

The town will buy the land from The Conservation Fund, who was contacted for help in acquiring the land due to financial needs. Half of the $3 million price tag will be funded by the military. The land is also in the flight path of the Bogue Field landing strip operated by Cherry Point.

"Basically what they're trying to do is acquire land near military bases to prevent development in the future and also preserve it for environmental and community reasons," Rush said.

Rush said 10 acres of the park will be reserved for potential baseball fields soccer fields or other multi-purpose facilities.

The other 20 acres will remain untouched and in their natural state.

"It's hard to find 30 acres here in Emerald Isle, so it's great to keep 20 natural and we'll help protect the environment," Barber said.

The area is located behind the Emerald Isle Community Center, which they hope to connect to the new park with a bridge.

While the park won't officially belong to the town until the spring, it's still open for public use. Residents can enjoy nature while going on hikes along various trails in the area.