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HOLDEN BEACH—Kayak and small boat launches on the Intracoastal Waterway are part of a park Holden Beach will build on Brunswick Avenue—but bigger plans are in store for the stretch of land if the town can nab a BIG grant.
A boardwalk connected to two piers that will reach the water at the planned park under the water tower was part of an overall park proposal approved unanimously April 9 by Holden Beach officials.
But a controversial move was approved 3-2 for town staff to apply for a Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) to build a tie-up dock along the waterline.
The BIG grant is offered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to build tie-up facilities with related amenities for boats larger than 26-feet long.
Holden Beach commissioners opted not to pursue the BIG grant when it was proposed in 2012, but the program did not receive enough applications in its first round and has $6 million in funds available.
Parks and recreation programs coordinator Amanda Wiggins said the BIG grant is offered nationwide, which makes it more difficult to receive.
The grant can be approved with anywhere from 25 percent to 50 percent matching funds from the local government.
“We would have a better chance at receiving the grant with a 50 percent match,” Wiggins said.
Town staff is considering a tie-up dock large enough for eight boats.
Recreational boaters who stopped, primarily for overnight stays, would have access to electricity and water and would be able to pump out sewage systems into the Holden Beach sewer line.
Town Manager David Hewett said if they town receives the BIG grant, they can also apply for other grants, such as a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant to cover the cost of the matching funds.
Commissioners had to decide if they would pursue the grant April 9 to give staff time to submit the application. The deadline is April 24.
Board members were torn by over the direction the BIG grant plan would take the town.
Commissioner Don Glander said he saw the boat dock as a natural extension of the plan to build the kayak/boat launches from the water tower park.
Using the BIG grant for the dock would eliminate the boardwalk piers into the Intracoastal Waterway but would add the kayak launches onto the ends of the boat dock.
“I don’t see it that way. I see it as the town getting into the marina business,” commissioner Dennis Harrington said.
“We would have to put in infrastructure. It is not a benefit to the town.”
Harrington was concerned over who would handle collecting overnight rentals, deck fees and pumping out sewage.
“We’d have to hire more people,” Harrington said.
Commissioner Ray Lehr countered the dock would be pull in/plug-in, so the boat owners would handle all of their boat needs.
Lehr said in the next 10-20 years, Holden Beach is going to need to add more than just a playground. He added the new boat dock would be the best billboard Holden Beach could put together.
“We need to look at getting more than floating docks,” Lehr said.
“Where would Holden Beach be today if in 1986 our predecessors decided not to spend $4 million for a new bridge, or take the gamble and put sewer in?” Lehr said.
Harrington was also concerned the town would overextend itself spending money on the project and having to wait for reimbursement money
Hewett said the project would be done in phases.
“We’ll build some, then be reimbursed, then build some, then be reimbursed,” he said
Wiggins said the project could cost in the $900,000 range but the BIG grant could pay for $674,000 and the town could save $80,000 in duplicate costs for the piers/kayak launches.
She added the grant could even pay for the restrooms on the park site.
“We could end up spending less than $200,000 and get one of the best waterfronts,” Lehr said.
During a public-comment session, Brad Willis, of 210 Ocean Boulevard West, spoke in support of pursuing the grant.
“I read the grant (application) and I think this is a great first step,” he said.
Commissioners voted 3-2 to pursue the BIG grant, with Commissioner Sheila Young and Harrington voting against applying for the grant.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.