Eagle Island

Here's the view from Wilmington's famed downtown Riverwalk. To your left the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge soars high overhead, carrying quite a volume of traffic between Brunswick and New Hanover counties. Straight ahead—well, depending on where you are on the Riverwalk—is the Battleship USS North Carolina.

Then, sort of around and behind the battleship, is Eagle Island, 2,335 acres of completely undeveloped brackish marsh and swamp forest. Not what you'd generally expect to see in such an urban area.

It hasn't always been completely undeveloped and it may not always continue as such. The Eagle Island Coalition is a group of concerned citizens that got together several years ago looking for, as the real estate people say, the best and highest use of the land.

"It used to be kind of a hub for transportation and for retail space," said Heather Loftin, Director of Programs at the Battleship USS North Carolina. "Over time all that has kind of transitioned. There's a lot of natural things about it, and the group wants to kind of go in and preserve-slash-conserve Eagle Island."

Some of the tentative plans she's heard from the group tie in nicely with some tentative plans she's made for future programs aboard the battleship. She'd like to allow scout troops overnight stays, and maybe they'll get to meet some of those ghosts, and possibly some daytime activities could be tied in with that.

"What they'd like to do is make it an eco-tourism whole where there could be some walking trails, some canoeing, some kayaking, and tons of bird-watching opportunities. A couple creeks go through here."

Step one will be to put a stop to some of the problems the island has had in the past and some that persist into the present, such as litter, the county landfill, a giant scrap metal recycling facility, the empty shell of a fish scrap factory, a cement plant, a quarry, and a lot of old chemical and fertilizer plants, many of them abandoned.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has created some embankments where it dumps materials that have been dredged up from the ocean floor, and it has cordoned off one area.

According to Loftin, the group has bought some of the land, acquired some grant money, and is looking at buying some more land. "They have to have some type of infrastructure in place, some building and maintaining, and they'd have to build some kind of bridges."

She said some areas are thigh-high in mud at high tide and may be more suitable for a kayaking tour than a bike ride.

"And obviously bathroom facilities," she said. "They are establishing a board and that could be really good."

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Terms: Battleship North Carolina: Eagle Island

Battleship North Carolina: Eagle Island

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