Duffyfield turns community liability into park – WithersRavenel

Duffyfield neighborhood turns a community liability into a park

Duffyfield neighborhood turns a community liability into a park

Flooding has long been a problem for portions of the Duffyfield community in New Bern. When the City decided to team with WithersRavenel to address its flooding issues with a constructed wetland, an opportunity to transform the approximately 5-acre area into something even greater emerged: a community park.

The developing plan is to create a park that simultaneously offers green space and recreational opportunities, and a resilient wetland system that mitigates localized flooding during a range of storm events (up to 25-year storm event), improving water quality by storing, filtering and treating water during smaller rainfall events.

The Duffyfield project combines city-owned parcels and undevelopable properties that suffered from repeated flooding before being bought out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The urban stormwater treatment facility and park space will transform vacant land into a community asset that will spur investment in the historically underserved community.

Shelbe West is a WithersRavenel Landscape Designer working on the project. She’s excited about the collaborative process unfolding in Duffyfield. WithersRavenel, City of New Bern officials and community members are engaging in an ongoing conversation to reimagine the property.

West mentions that Brian Starkey, Landscape Architect and Project Director, identified the opportunity  to provide amenities for Duffyfield, an underserved community in New Bern that lacks recreation facilities and community space in combination with the flood mitigation facility. The community’s other main recreation asset, the Stanley White Recreation Center, was damaged during Hurricane Florence in 2018 and is in the process of being redeveloped. In addition to the stormwater facility, current plans for the Duffyfield park space include:

  • Accessible trails that weave through the park, connecting visitors to nature
  • A playground area, offering traditional and nature-based play opportunities
  • A pollinator garden
  • Flexible open space
  • Public art installations
  • Observation decks
  • Nature education opportunities
  • Picnic and refuge areas
  • Native plantings and habitat restoration

WithersRavenel held an initial community meeting about the project in Duffyfield for residents to engage with the planning and design process, and will hold a second meeting to confirm recommendations made by the master plan. West said that while community members expressed great interest in a solution to the longtime flooding problems, they were pleasantly surprised by the opportunities offered by the park components. Some community members also spoke to city staff about wanting to reimagine some of their personal property in a way to mitigate flooding that would also give back to Duffyfield.

As landscape designer for the project, one of West’s responsibilities is curating a native plant palette that will withstand storm events and contribute to local ecology by creating habitat.

“I’m very interested in planting design,” she said. “I’ve created a plant list that takes a two-pronged approach, ensuring biodiversity and improving water quality.”

The City of New Bern is considering an expansion of the project to include a larger community greenway project. West says there is “an opportunity to create an ecological corridor through the community, connecting nature back into residents’ day-to-day lives.”

Having completed the master plan, WithersRavenel is currently developing construction plans for the project. These plans will detail constructed stormwater wetlands as well as park spaces and facilities. An earlier phase to upgrade the associated pump and outlet control system needed to move the project forward is under construction.

WithersRavenel also helped the City secure funding to continue with future phases of the project and park development. Those funds include:

  • North Carolina Attorney General’s Environmental Enhancement Grant (EEG) Grant for $134,000
  • North Carolina Clean Water State Revolving Fund low-interest loan for $855,000, with a request pending to increase the loan amount to $3,171,200
  • Pending applications to other funding sources: FEMA BRIC program and North Carolina Land and Water Fund

Do you want to put WithersRavenel’s parks and recreation and landscape architecture professionals to work for you? Contact Parks and Recreation Director Brian Starkey at (919) 238-0305 or bstarkey@withersravenel.com for information.