By: Jefferson Weaver, The News Reporter
The long-planned trail that would allow bicyclists and pedestrians to circle Lake Waccamaw got a new lease on life Tuesday.
Commissioners approved a request by the Friends of Lake Waccamaw State Park to apply for a Department of Transportation grant to study and plan a trail circling through the town and the park.
Harry Foley, president of the Park Friends, emphatically promised the board that the grant would come at no cost to the town. “We pledge that there will never be a request for town monies to fund any portion of this project,” he said.
The town’s only responsibility is to submit the application, Foley said. The $35,000 matching grant will require ten percent from the town. Foley said those funds have already been committed from other sources.
That money will be provided to the town as the grant applicant before the application is signed and sent to the DOT. “We will do all the work, and you will get all the credit,” Foley said.
A similar project was in the works while Foley was town manager, but funding for the program was stopped when Gov. Roy Cooper made changes to a number of programs shortly after his election.
The grant is for planning and engineering, not construction, Foley said.
Work would only begin if the grant application is approved in November. Foley noted that ecotourism is on the rise in North Carolina, and events like the annual Take The Lake challenge would make good use of the enhanced trail – and bring money into the town.
“Look at the loss of those jobs in Fair Bluff last week,” he said. “The future isn’t big manufacturers any more. We have to look at different forms of economic development. Ecotourism can be a godsend to our county. What better destination can there be than Lake Waccamaw?”
The commissioners unanimously approved submitting the application.