February 9, 2016

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:                  Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:           Senator Jean Preston Memorial Park

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider two items associated with the planned Senator Jean Preston Memorial Park to be constructed this spring on Town-owned land adjacent to the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area.  The Board will first consider the attached Resolution Authorizing Grant Application for Playground Construction, and will then review the revised site plan  for the new park.

Resolution Authorizing Grant Application for Playground Construction

As you know, a volunteer committee (Judy Wilgus, Bernie Whalley, Phyllis Ford, Linda McCoy, Pat McElraft, and Jimmy Farrington, with support from Parks and Recreation Director Alesia Sanderson and me) has been working hard for the past two years to raise funds to honor the late Senator Preston’s legacy with a new playground.  The committee has raised approximately $50,000 to date, and continues its work toward a May 25, 2016 grand opening date for the new park.

The committee recently learned of a new grant opportunity through Trilium Health Resources, a  local government agency that manages mental health, substance use and intellectual / developmental disability services in a 24-county area in eastern North Carolina.  Trillium offers “Play Together Construction Grants for Accessible Playgrounds” in its service area, and the planned playground at the Senator Jean Preston Memorial Park represents a great opportunity to provide an accessible playground for the children of Emerald Isle and surrounding areas.  Accessible playgrounds include playground components designed to serve children of all abilities, including those with special needs and/or served by wheelchairs.  Senator Preston was committed to many great causes during her service in the NC General Assembly, and particularly so to education, children, and individuals with special needs.  Because of the strong correlation between Senator Preston’s interests, the committee’s goals for the Senator Jean Preston Memorial Park, and the mission of Trillium’s “Play Together” grant program, we are very optimistic that the Town’s grant application will be selected for grant funding.

The attached resolution authorizes a total grant application of $225,000, and these funds, if awarded, would be used to purchase all-inclusive playground equipment specifically designed to serve children with special needs.  I have attached a brochure with several examples of the playground components that may ultimately be constructed at the Senator Jean Preston Memorial Park for your review.  If the Town is selected for grant funding, Town staff will return to the Board with a construction contract recommendation at a future Board meeting this spring, and we will continue to work toward the planned May 25 grand opening date.  We expect to receive a decision on the Town’s grant application within the next 30 days, and if so, we believe we can meet the May 25 grand opening date.

The Town would provide a local match of $75,000 for this grant.  Of this $75,000, $50,000 is in the form of private donations received over the past two years for the new park.  These funds would be specifically earmarked for a new ~ 450 ft. long elevated wooden walkway from the playground site to the existing soundfront pier and restroom facility, and would provide a safe and convenient pedestrian link to these amenities.  An additional $25,000 of in-kind services has been committed by area contractors, and these services include construction a roadway connection, new parking spaces, attractive landscaping, and placement of sod on the site.

I recommend approval of the attached resolution.  I am optimistic that the Town will be selected for grant funding, and am hopeful that the Town can construct a first-class, all-inclusive playground facility at the Senator Jean Preston Memorial Park site.

Site Plan, Park Entrance

I have attached a copy of the site plan for the new park, and I am now seeking the Board’s concurrence with the site plan as presented.  The site plan is predicated on the Town’s ultimate award of the requested grant funding from Trillium, and will need to be adjusted if the grant funds are not awarded.

The site plan includes a new asphalt driveway connection from the existing vehicle / trailer parking lot serving the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Facility to the existing asphalt driveway on the park site.  A total of 10 new single-vehicle parking spaces (constructed with decorative paver blocks) will be constructed perpendicular to the existing asphalt driveway to serve playground patrons.  (Boat trailers would not be permitted to park in this area.)  The existing asphalt driveway connection to Canal Drive would be eliminated, and would be replaced with a 10 ft. wide bicycle path connection to allow residents from that area to access the playground area and the rest of the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area.

The new playground will be constructed on an approximately 50 ft. x 50 ft. area between Canal Drive and the existing vehicle / trailer parking lot.  A new paver block walkway will connect it with the asphalt driveway and parking area.  A new ~ 450 ft. long elevated wooden walkway will be constructed along the existing retaining wall on the north side of the vehicle / trailer parking lot, will cross an existing storm water wetland, and will connect directly to the existing soundfront pier and walkway near the boat basin.  From there, the existing restroom facilities are easily and safely  accessible.

As noted earlier, there are significant in-kind contributions from several area contractors.  SunLand Builders is contributing time and materials for the asphalt roadway connection.  Yardworks Landscaping is contributing landscaping material and labor, and also secured the donation of the paver blocks for the parking spaces.  Task Contracting will be providing labor for the paver block installation, and Sewell Quality Turf Grass is providing sod and labor.  In addition, the Swansboro Rotary Club and National Rotary Club are providing grant funds associated with these improvements.  We are extremely fortunate to have a group of community-minded businesses assisting on this project, and their contributions are greatly appreciated.

The Board should note that we continue to work through storm water permitting issues with the NC Department of Environmental Quality.  These issues have been challenging, and potentially could have resulted in an alternative layout for the playground parking area.  I believe these issues will ultimately be resolved, and I believe the new park can be constructed as outlined on the attached site plan.

I look forward to the Board’s review of the site plan for the new Senator Jean Preston Memorial Playground, and look forward to seeing the dedicated volunteers on the committee unveil a great new playground for the children of Emerald Isle and Senator Preston’s family.