Newly awarded state funding will make it possible to turn Hitchcock Creek into a canoe trail that the public can access. The hidden resource has captivated many with its natural beauty and hobby boaters, fishers and nature enthusiasts await the project’s completion.
Gov. Beverly E. Perdue wrote to Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin in a letter, “I am pleased to announce that $192,000 in financial assistance for a project located in your city has been approved by the State of North Carolina.”
“I congratulate the City of Rockingham on its sponsorship of the Hitchcock Creek navigation and greenway project. This project will remove navigation hazards, stabilize stream-banks and develop a greenway along a ten-mile reach of Hitchcock Creek. Your efforts are to be commended. The Division of Water Resources of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will be contacting the City Manager concerning the administrative requirements for the use of state funds for this project.”
“It’s a very complicated process to receive these funds from the North Carolina government,” said McLaurin at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “We want to thank Beverly and Sen. Purcell who recommended the project to her.”
City Manager Monty Crump said that in anticipation of such an award, contractor have been bidding on the debris removal project. To date, seven contractors await April 21, when a contractor will be chosen to work on the creek, removing downed trees and debris that has collected in shallow areas, making it difficult, sometimes impossible to pass through by boat.
American Rivers staff came to see Hitchcock Creek, and has agreed to continue to partner with the city on establishing a canoe/paddling trail on the creek. American Rivers will work to develop a map of the creek that shows attractions or points of interest along the way, such as rare plants or animals, historic landmarks, and even a ‘river tour’ of the old mills, complete with brief historic notes on each site. The map will serve as a reference when tourists come to the area.
Rockingham Planning Director John Massey said he thinks the meeting with American Rivers went well, and that he expects the map to be near completion around mid-summer.
Crump and Massey discussed the greenway project, and how they envision it to be similar to the trail around Hinson Lake. The gravel trail and foot bridges will be constructed by city work crews because “our dollar can be stretched that way, and those guys know how to do that sort of work,” according to Massey.
Crump said there is a chance the greenway trail would connect to the downtown walking loop.
The project has full funding for both the blue trail and the greenway. Now a portion of the old lake-bed must still be secured before plans can be made for a campground, parking lot and canoe entry point.
Staff Writer Dawn Kurry can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ex. 43, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.