Extending the boardwalk

One major change envisioned for the next phase of Shem Creek Park would be a new pedestrian bridge connecting the boardwalks on either side of Jones Creek, a small tributary to Shem Creek.

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— The town soon hopes to extend its Shem Creek Park along much of the creek’s western edge.

The public got a chance to review the plan Tuesday night, and at least three dozen residents showed up at Town Hall to look at the initial drawings and ask questions.

Town engineer Kevin Mitchell said the proposed expansion continues the master plan previously approved by Town Council and would increase public access at the park, which opened in 2011.

The project involves giving the town ownership of some deteriorated boardwalks that currently are privately owned. The town then would rebuild them and open them to the public.

The section of boardwalk in question runs from the town’s existing shrimp dock at the far end of Shem Creek park along the marsh, over Jones Creek and along the front of Vickery’s, the Shem Creek Inn and Water’s Edge Restaurant.

“We’ll have four new points of public access and will maintain all other existing access points,” Mitchell said.

Donna German, who lives in The Groves, said she loves the park and visits it often, but she wondered how the plans would affect the town’s shrimp boat docks, which currently aren’t used.

Councilman Elton Carrier said the town hasn’t leased those docks to shrimpers because they lack the necessary liability insurance, but the town is working on a solution that would involve a third party.

As for the other planned changes, Carrier said, “I’m all for it. I think it’s terrific.”

The town’s ownership of the boardwalk would let pedestrians make a loop from Coleman Boulevard out along Shem Creek and back along the existing boardwalk in the marsh. “That’s the exciting part, the connectivity,” Carrier added.

If all goes smoothly, the town would hope to have the project designed and permitted by next year. After that, the town would seek bids for the project, which is expected to cost about $1.5 million. Town Council already has set aside the money.

“We definitely want it open in the summer of 2015,” Mitchell said. “We haven’t started permitting yet, so that’s a big unknown.”