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Proposed River Walk Raises Concern for Some

Supporters of a proposed river walk in Smithfield say it would boost business, but some state officials are already raising concerns.

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SMITHFIELD, N.C. — Smithfield businessman Ross Lambe wants to merge the Neuse River and the town into a tourist destination but the idea has some state officials raising concerns.

"I think it would make Smithfield a destination," Lambe said. "People pass through Smithfield, and all they see is the main street."

Lampe proposed to dig a canal off the Neuse river, just west of the bridge, and build a river walk with restaurants, shops and a boat ride down the middle. It would be similar to San Antonio, Texas.

Although it has not formally reviewed the plan, the Army Corps of Engineers has raised concerns about possible damage to wetlands and more flooding problems. The town has struggled with flooding problems for years.

"It was their opinion that this was not something that was economically viable," said Durwood Stephenson, a local contractor and former Department of Transportation board member.

But supporters believe they can avoid those problems by working with the Corp. Lampe said he is not discouraged and hopes to push forward with support from the Downtown Smithfield Development group.

Some estimate it could cost nearly $20,000 to study the possibility of building a river walk. Stephenson and others argue it is probably not worth the money if the permits will be rejected.

But supporters believe they can build without impacting wetlands. They are looking into some federal funding options.