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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — What should be done with the property lining the Cape Fear River has been outlined in several different plans over the years, many never panning out. Tuesday night, a panel of regional experts on the area met to discuss a new vision.

The panel, which was organized by the Cape Fear Economic Development Council, not only laid out a vision for growth in downtown Wilmington, but also the land lining the opposite side of the river. The panel was comprised of economic, legal and environmental strategists.

”By improving or enhancing the area around the river, employees or potential employees and employers are going to look more positively upon our area,” says Tom Conway, a Cape Fear EDC board member.

The group presented a plan for development, which would happen in three stages.

“We’re in phase one right now and later on, we hope to have phase two and three,” Conway says. “Those would go north on towards the Hilton.”

The first phase, which Conway says has already been funded, will repair the fountain in Riverfront Park and add planters and trees to green up the area. The second and third phases, which have yet to be funded, call for an event lawn, public restrooms and a kids play area near the Coast Guard dock area and Hilton hotel.

The group also discussed a possible eco-tourism facility on Eagle Island. Conway says the 3,100 acres could be used for recreational activities, providing hiking trails and kayaking tours.

Though sites are still up in the air, a downtown ballpark is one development the group talked about briefly.

“The other uses [for the land] could be multi-faceted, such as marinas, restaurants, performing arts centers and so on,” Conway said.

More park space was a huge part of the conversation. One panel member says Wilmington has the lowest number of parks per capita compared to other cities throughout the state.

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