|Help our community protect Emerald Isle’s 30-acre tract of pristine maritime forest and wetlands known as McLean-Spell Park. Find more info below and submit comment HERE by July, 13th.
This area is the last major remnant of mature maritime forest in Emerald Isle’s interior and, given its unique location and stunningly beautiful topography, is perhaps the only natural feature of its kind on Bogue Banks. It is also worth noting that this site is home to the Painted Bunting, listed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a federal “special concern” species.
Despite the park’s rarity and irreplaceability, there are Town proposals that would allow clear-cutting of up to 10 of the 23 forested acres for recreational amenities (7 acres are undevelopable wetlands). Many of these features are already available just across the bridge at Western Park athletic complex in Cedar Point.
There are already plans underway to develop at least one acre of the forest for a dog park. Likewise, Bogue Banks Water Company secured a 4-acre lease to install a well-site in the forest due to water quality issues that have arisen in recent years due to development, particularly saltwater intrusion.
A bit of history on this land: On October 31, 2017, The Conservation Fund closed for Emerald Isle the $3 million sale of this tract, which is located adjacent to the town government complex and community center (bordering the north end of the property). Half of the funds for the purchase came from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, since the forest is directly beneath the flight path for Harrier jet training conducted at nearby Bogue Field. State grants were a major funding source as well, including the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
Following the town’s request for a grant from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund (from which $545,000 was awarded to Emerald Isle), terrestrial ecologist Michael Schafale of North Carolina’s Natural Heritage Program published a required Site Survey Report in April 2017. His report states: “The town’s proposal to retain nine acres of the tract for recreational development would … be a serious threat to the natural integrity of the site, given [its] small size…” (p. 5). If the middle of this 30-acre tract were developed, Schafale warns that “it would destroy virtually all of its ecological value” (ibid).
Likewise, the parcel is extremely valuable in its natural state for absorbing stormwater; buffering against hurricane-force winds, recharging the underground aquifer with clean, filtered water; providing relief from heat and salt spray; and enhancing neighborhood aesthetics/home values.
Emerald Isle’s 2014 Economic Development Strategic Plan has compelling survey data based on feedback from 1,242 residents, which seems to support the desire for environmental conservation. Two results in particular demonstrate a strong public desire for environmentally sensible policymaking:
1.) When asked about the key areas of interest over the next 5 years in Emerald Isle, 65% of respondents chose natural environment preservation (p. 34).
2.) For improving quality of life, 60% of respondents identified passive parks & preservation of natural resources as a top priority (p. 34).
The Town’s survey to decide the future of McLean-Spell Park is a significant opportunity to demonstrate public support for preserving this pristine 30-acre maritime forest/wetland area, the last interior tract of its kind on Bogue Banks. Find the survey HERE. It includes a portion to submit comments, a list of amenities that should be considered, and a list of amenities that should not be. Comments are due July 13, 2022
On Wednesday, July 6, the Town is hosting two virtual public stakeholder meetings regarding the future of McLean-Spell park that folks are encouraged to attend. Zoom log-in details can be found HERE.
Thank you for your help protecting this pristine forest/wetland area for current and future generations.
For further reference, see below articles from Carteret County News-Times writer Brad Rich (two are from The Coastal Review):
1.) “EI park purchase finalized”
2.) “Will ParkPlan Save or Ruin Maritime Forest?”
3.) “Town: ParkWithout Ball Fields Not Worth It”