Construction paves way for walking at Lake Wilson
By Brie Handgraaf
The Wilson Times
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
WILSON — Work is underway to make Lake Wilson more accessible and user-friendly.
Bridgeview Contractors started work at the end of February on a new pedestrian bridge to connect the north and south ends of the park. Once complete in June, the bridge will complete a 2-mile walking trail around the park.
“The bridge is going to connect the park, allowing people to walk all the way around it,” said Parks and Recreation Director David Lee. “We have a future vision for Lake Wilson that includes a variety of recreation opportunities and this is a part of that vision.”
In its goal to link sections of a park, Wilson’s project is similar to a stalled proposal in Greenville to build a pedestrian bridge over the Tar River. That plan would link the 25-acre Town Common with the 324-acre River Park North.
Greenville’s City Council was presented several options for such a project in November 2016, with prices ranging from $407,000 to add designated bike lanes to the Greene Street and Pitt Street bridges to building a high-visibility bridge for at least $7.2 million, or an elevated gondola system which would cost between $12 million and $20.9 million.
In Wilson, the bridge project is more modest — and affordable.
Officials said the trail and bridge carry a $250,000 price tag, but $50,000 of the expense was covered by a Merck Foundation grant. Merck employees also are chipping in with some manual labor to help with the park upgrades.
“The overriding goal of Merck Wilson’s Community Outreach Program is to improve the quality of life and the environment in the surrounding area,” Merck Wilson plant manager Kelley Brna told the Wilson City Council in 2016. “We are doing this by leveraging Merck’s financial generosity and the site’s human capital to strengthen our relationship and involvement in the community.”
Officials had hoped the project would have gotten underway sooner, but the state permit process held up the progress.
“The bridge at Toisnot just had to be replaced, so it didn’t take much time at all,” said Lee. “To build an original bridge and get the necessary permits from the state is time-consuming. That was the holdup.”
The bridge is set to be 7.2 feet off the water to avoid creating a flood hazard, but some kayakers have expressed their excitement about being able to paddle underneath the structure. Lee said Lake Wilson is popular with walkers, fishers, disc golfers and other outdoors enthusiasts.
“We’re very excited about all the improvements at Lake Wilson,” Lee said. “It is one of our recreation facilities that is going to get better and better with more and more use.”
For more information on recreation opportunities in Wilson, visit www.wilsonnc.org/parks-and-recreation/.
The Daily Reflector contributed information to this story.