State park proposed along Black River, neighbors opposed
BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation is proposing a state park along the Black River to protect trees more than a thousand years old, but residents in three neighboring counties are not happy about it.
Park officials said the park would cover about 2,000 acres along the river in Bladen County and parts of Pender and Sampson counties.
Carlton Henry has lived next to the black river in Bladen County for 65 years taking care of the land and enjoying that land.
“As you can see this is a rural area,” Carlton Henry said. “We don’t have but one store to go buy stuff really and that’s the way we like it. You know, people like it quiet.”
He said that could all change after some of the neighbors found out about the plan to put a state park near their land.
“The state came up with the brilliant idea of making it a park, because in this area is the oldest trees in eastern North Carolina or anywhere in the United States.”
North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Don Reuter said they have been studying this area for a while now. He said the park would protect the Cypress Trees along the Black River. Reuter said some of them are more than 1,600 years old.
“That’s our mission to protect unique, biological, recreational, geological, and other types of natural features across the state,” Reuter said.
Reuter said they would work with willing property owners to create a linear park with little places along the river to drop a kayak and enjoy a nice paddle. He said they do not just come in and take land from people.
Henry said the area is already open to the public and does not need the official “park” title.
“Anyone that wants to see the Cypress trees, I have a boat ramp here or they can go up to the bridge and put in,” Henry said.
Henry also fears more traffic and trash.
“They said that would put 50 to 60,000 people on the river each year,” Henry said.
Reuter said it is about protecting the trees and the land near the river more than anything else.
“If not for the nature conservancy, if not to the creation of state parks, there is nothing to keep a developer or somebody who wants to build houses or other things along that river.”
Reuter also said it can help protect the land in the event of flooding which has been a problem along the Black River. Henry said they already have problems, because of flooding.
Henry said they have been asking the state for years to help them clean up the river after a drought caused part of the river to close where grass grew in the dry spot. He said the river does not flow much now, because of that blocked part of the river. Henry said they have not been able to get any help from the state to clean out the river.
Last week, state officials and homeowners met at a local fire station to discuss the park. Henry said they tried to address cleaning up the river and got no response. He said there were about 90-100 people there almost all in opposition to the park.
Reuter said some folks do not understand how this park could help the area.
“I wish anyone who has questions about the state park or is concerned, you know I’ve heard some people say it’s going to bring a bad element, I wish they would contact us and talk to us and bring their concerns to us, so we can answer them and also maybe talk to some people who live near other state parks, because some people who originally were in opposition have become some of our best advocates,” Reuter said.
Reuter said they do understand and they do not want it. He said people who do not live in this area may not understand it, but they are the ones who have been living there and taking care of that land for so many years.
“We are kind of in the same position as the people at Echo Farms,” Henry said. “The officials and the experts are trying to come in and tell us what’s good for us. ‘Just let us build it. You will like it.’ No. That’s not what we think.”