“Duck Builds Safe Soundside Route” by Daryl Law of the Outer Banks Sentinel

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Visitors and residents alike are going to love it when this project is complete.

The Town of Duck continues to push full steam ahead on an ambitious project to build a 10-foot wide, wooden soundfront boardwalk from the existing stretch behind the town park north to the Waterfront Shoppes.

When it’s all said and done, there will be 2,800-linear feet of boardwalk counting the existing stretch behind the park, the new northern extension and the existing walks associated with several soundfront businesses.

Recently, a construction crew was hard at work on the northern end of the new portion of the boardwalk near the water tower, and the decking was going down like clockwork.

The boardwalk will connect key shopping areas to pristine natural stretches and existing walking trails in the town park that run east and west.

According to Town Manager Chris Layton, the boardwalk will offer folks a different, safer and more enjoyable way to move through town.

“Ultimately, we want to run the whole length of the village,” he said.

Some of the permits and easements are in place for the southern extension and the town has applied for another grant to pay for part of it, Layton said. None of that construction has begun.

As for the new and old parts that are complete, the manager said that on a recent sunny and warm day, folks were all over it.

In just a half hour, Layton saw six people out with baby carriages and dogs on leashes.

It’s both “wonderful and exciting,” Layton said.

“It’s a nice family activity,” said Kathy McCullough-Testa, Duck spokesperson.

The goals of the boardwalk are varied, Layton explained.

For one thing, it gives people a way to enjoy the soundfront natural area with its marsh grasses, critters, high areas with hardwoods such as live oaks and, of course, grand vistas of the Currituck Sound.

The new segment allows vacationers and locals a way to access the sound and enjoy all of this beauty that’s mostly been off limits because it’s behind privately-owned properties.

The first part of the boardwalk, behind the park, was completed in May 2008, Layton noted.

The overall master plan calls for just under one mile of boardwalk. The project required the town to obtain all of the required easements; they have 22 of the 24 needed, Layton said.

For the new part of the project, they had to obtain 20 permits including one from CAMA. They hope to have it completed by this summer and it looks to be on schedule.

Along the walk, expect to see all sorts of different environments

Because the northeast wind had blown the sound water out on Friday, the dark black mud flats revealed remnants of old man-made structures such as piers, bulkheads and perhaps duck blinds. Along sandy beach zones, there were deer, raccoon and bird tracks.

On the northern extension, there are two canals that run out to the open water. One is behind Wee Winks Square; the other is just south of the water tower. Both look as if they need to be dredged and Layton said he doubts the one by the tower is worth dredging.

The second important factor of the boardwalk is safety.

Motoring along N.C. 12 through the commercial area of Duck can be tricky in the summer as folks are out in droves walking, riding bikes, shopping and heading out to eat. Add in the traffic congestion created by Saturday and Sunday check outs and it’s less than ideal.

Layton said the boardwalk may resolve some of these issues.

“Roughly ten thousand people are within a half mile of the park [during the season],” he said. From the park, they’ll be able head north to get to Wee Winks Square and the Waterfront Shoppes without walking on N.C. 12.

He said they will eventually erect signs to educate weekly visitors to use the boardwalk and they currently promote the new path on their web site townofduck.com and in the Winter 2010 issue of their newsletter, ‘Duck Tales.’

McCullough-Testa said it also would be featured in the 40,000 town brochures which are distributed at welcome centers and in check-in bags prepared by the various rental companies.

Another important part of the project includes a 130-foot pier to relatively “deep” water that will run southwest from the southern end of the Waterfront Shoppes’ existing boardwalk, Layton said.

It will be built in the same spot where an old pier once stood and it will feature four day-use boats slips.

Public boat slips have been sorely needed for those who may want to go out to dinner in Duck by boat. The town can have up to 10 boat slips, and several more are planned in other areas, Layton said.

Duck Director of Community Development Andy Garman pointed out the slips are only intended for transient boaters. It won’t be a full marina because then the town would have to offer more facilities and staff it.

They are allowed to have 10 total slips before getting into a scenario such as the Manteo town docks that require a dock master and things like a pump-out station.

The town currently has a pier and kayak launch behind the park that folks flock to with their fishing and crabbing gear during the season.

Taken together, the boardwalk and piers offer something different than the beach for the thousands of people who visit this small sea-to-sound town each year, Layton and Garman said.

Because of the low water last Friday, the crew from Todd Coyle Construction of Southern Shores wasn’t sinking pilings but workers Rick Garcia and Angel Puerto, both of Kill Devil Hills, were hard at work attaching the decking to the framing with heavy duty, long screws.

Garcia used a drill with a long extension to sink the screws without having to bend over to do so. Other workers were putting up hand rails. The height of the boardwalk varies in different areas but on average it’s about six or seven feet above the water.

Layton hopes to launch another phase of the project that would entail adding low-level, LED lights powered by solar panels along the length of the boardwalk.

That way, it can still be used after dark by those folks walking home from a restaurant such as The Blue Point, which is the northern most business serviced by the boardwalk, Layton said. If the master plan can be completed down the road, the southern-most end would be behind Aqua S Restaurant.

The Coyle crew has been pushing hard and made a lot of progress on the northern extension since January, Layton said. It’s a good thing the boardwalk is fairly tall because they’ve already spotted a cottonmouth on a recent warm day.

Folks also should be able to see plenty of different types of waterfowl including ducks of all types.

The $450,000 northern end expansion project was mostly paid for through two grants. The town was awarded a $202,517 grant from the Dare County Tourism Board which does business as the Outer Banks Visitor’s Bureau.

The second part came in the form of a $222,025 grant from the state’s Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. Another $10,000 was gifted to the town from the Waterfront Shoppes. The remainder was funded by the town.

They have submitted another grant request to build a portion of the southern expansion or Phase 3, Layton said. That one is a CAMA public access grant.

The manager also said this is just the first piece of an overall pedestrian plan.

When and if the mid-Currituck bridge is built from the mainland to Corolla, the Town of Duck may seek approval from the N.C. Department of Transportation to make some changes in town such as additional crosswalks.

daryllaw@charter.net | 252-256-0134