Leaders push for Pender rails, trails could lose $72K grant - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Leaders push for Pender rails, trails could lose $72K grant

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Leaders in Pender County are looking to see if it is possible to build a working railroad track on land in front of the Commerce Park along Highway 421. Leaders in Pender County are looking to see if it is possible to build a working railroad track on land in front of the Commerce Park along Highway 421.

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Leaders in Pender County are looking to see if it is possible to build a working railroad track on land in front of the Commerce Park along Highway 421.  The track would go where a new trail in Pender County was originally slated to go.

While, Chairman George Brown says he still supports the trail project, he says it will be placed on hold, until the county hears back from a feasibility study, which will look at putting working railroad tracks on the land. He says he doesn't want to do anything that would jeopardize the rails, which would bring economic benefits to the area.

The Rails to Trails organization has been working for seven years to turn the old tracks in front of the Commerce Park into trails.  The plan is to have the trails eventually stretch from the Battleship to the Moores Creek National Battlefield.

In 2011, the project was awarded a more than 70 thousand dollar grant to build the first mile of the trail.  The grant will become void if the original plan is changed in anyway, or if construction does not begin before November.

During Tuesday's meeting, commissioners decided to have the planning board go ahead and draft up a resolution, formally declining the grant.  The resolution will be voted on during the next board meeting. Commissioner Brown says most of the board seems to be in favor of passing that resolution at this time.

"It seems to be decided that this was in the county's best interest to cancel the contract at this time," said Ben Andrea with the County's Planning Board. He says, the grantor understands the situation and would not hold the move against the county.

"This was to be our first mile, and that's how you build up steam for the rest of the project, if we don't even get our first mile down the supporters get very discouraged," said Susan Bullers. She says she was very discouraged by the discussion during Tuesday's Pender County Commissioners meeting..

"If we get a grant and turn it down it doesn't show support for the project," said Bullers.

While Andrea says other grants are possible, Bullers says there aren't any other starting grants which are similar to the one they received.

"This opportunity will not happen again," said Bullers.  She also believes trails would bring economic opportunities to the area.

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