Construction continues to bustle all around Brunswick County to accommodate the area’s substantial population growth. But while the new neighborhoods, desired retailers and hot dining spots satisfy our need for convenience, sometimes it’s the basics that we still crave — the slow pace and simplistic spirit of the outdoors that drew us to the area in the first place.
In Leland off River Road (N.C. 133), a new park has been designed to encourage enjoyment of that coastal-area beauty. Unlike many other local parks, this park doesn’t have asphalt walkways or brightly colored jungle gyms, T-ball teams or Pop Warner practice. This time, think less ball and more birds. Less concrete and more creatures.
Opening this winter, Brunswick Nature Park will offer 911 acres of open space, an area bordered by River Road to the east, Town Creek to the south, wetlands and pine plantations to the west and a small residential neighborhood to the north. The large tract of preserved land so intimately cradled within these boundaries will offer something unique to the county: passive and active recreation and education opportunities within our area’s natural habitats. The park will be open year-round during daylight hours, providing a wide variety of unique outdoor activities for all ages and interests.
Whether it is exercise or exploring you prefer, Brunswick Nature Park will nurture your need for nature. Launch your kayak for a day of paddling around the pristine waters of Town Creek, escape the concrete walls of your traditional gym and explore the challenging hiking or biking trails, or simply take in the sights from lookout platforms strategically placed throughout the park for optimal views of native wildlife.
With the park’s wide variety of native species, visitors will quickly find themselves in a bird-watching paradise. Pine warbler, red-eyed vireo, cardinal, yellow warbler, red-bellied woodpecker, flycatcher, willow flycatcher, Carolina wren, downy woodpecker, ovenbird, white-bellied nuthatch, peewee, prothonotary warbler, robin, blue jay, crow, chickadee, titmouse and mourning dove are just a few of the interesting winged creatures to be sighted here. Perhaps most intriguing for the bird lovers is the goal of Brunswick Nature Park to encourage the return of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker by re-creating its native habitat.
If you prefer flora over fauna, the park’s plant life is equally exciting. Known species on the site include water oak, hickory, horse sugar, cabbage palm, sassafras, wild ginseng, wild jasmine, switch grass, cattail, Spanish moss, swamp titi and pitcher plants. Not to mention the well-known Venus fly trap, which, due to its endangered status, will have a special “sensitive plant community” protection zone.
But what’s a beautiful park without a picnic area? What’s a picturesque creek without a fishing pier? Funded through a grant from the Public Beach and Coastal Waterfront Access Program and under the direction of the Brunswick Planning Department, several park amenities are already in place and ready for the winter opening. A gated entrance, picnic pavilion, canoe and kayak launch, fishing pier, picnic tables, park benches and, potentially, restroom accommodations, will be available upon opening.
Quite possibly, the most popular area of the park will be the public water access. In order to preserve the natural habitats, no motorized boats will be permitted. However, visitors will be able to launch kayaks and canoes from the ADA–compliant floating dock, which is connected to the creek bank by a hinged boardwalk. Traversing the waters of Town Creek via kayak or canoe will prove to be a scenic experience as you travel alongside 4.2 miles of large bluffs that line the northern bank of the waterway.
As if the completed Phase I will not offer enough, Phase II, which promises several additional impressive amenities, will be implemented as budget allows. The long-term plan for the park is to offer everything from bird watching blinds to boardwalks through environmentally sensitive areas; walking, biking and equestrian trails to interpretative signs and site maps; exhibit gardens and viewing platforms to outdoor classrooms and a comprehensive environmental center building. Several parking areas, as well as a lot that will accommodate horse trailers, are also planned.
Currently built or proposed for the future, amenities will always follow a strict set of guidelines. The county, in cooperation with various land preservation organizations, is dedicated to preserving and protecting the vegetation, wildlife, ecosystems, vistas, wetlands and waterways that compose the property. Materials used in constructing amenities will have no long-term impact on the surrounding vegetation; parking lots will likely be gravel instead of pavement, trails will remain natural terrain, and raised boardwalks will be constructed using non-invasive installation techniques. Not only will the facilities be sensitive to the environment, but they will also be easy on the eyes. All amenities will share a similar style in order to create an attractive appearance for the park.
The goal of the Brunswick Nature Park is to protect the environment while providing endless educational and recreational opportunities for the community, whether it’s budding botanists on field trips learning about their favorite flora or the outdoor enthusiast looking to escape the stress of a long workday with a nature-infused workout. Now residents of Brunswick County can enjoy both the convenience of living in a booming community and the unique coastal nature that makes the area such a special place to call home for plants and people alike.