Published: Feb 23, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 23, 2013 05:38 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Town Council members support roughly $48 million in parks and greenways projects but don’t yet know how they’ll pay for them.
Parks and Recreation Director Butch Kisiah and others call the master plans “ambitious” but key to meeting the town’s goals over the next 10 years.
“The most important thing is to have a plan and a map, and then work on trying to work your way down that plan and use that map to try to get where you’re trying to go,” consultant Derek Williams, of Site Solutions LLC, told the Town Council Monday night.
The Greenways Master Plan budgets $8.5 million for improving 13 miles of greenways and building about 10 more miles. The town also has about four miles of park trails. The goal is 28 miles by 2022, said Chris Berndt, chairwoman of the Greenways Commission.
The parks master plan budgets another $39.5 million for renovations, expansions and new facilities. Most of the money would build four neighborhood parks in unserved areas, larger Parks and Recreation offices and special-use facilities, such as a community center with a gym, an arts center, an outdoor pool and splash grounds (areas with sprinklers for water play but no standing water).
Williams suggested renovating or expanding three community parks.
Council member Donna Bell suggested a splash pad for the Wallace Parking Deck, mini-parks on Sykes Road and using the library’s University Mall space for arts.
Council member Jim Ward said flexible parks would make it easier to respond to changes in the popularity of sports and activities. He also would like to see more swimming pools than splash pads, he said.
“We need to make sure we do all we can to give our residents a chance to become swimmers early in life,” Ward said.
The town should keep in mind there will be operations and maintenance costs for new parks, Williams said. “Developing partnerships is the best way to maximize tax dollars,” he said.
Town Manager Roger Stancil could have a rough funding plan for the council by April 22.
“One of the questions will be timing and the willingness of the community to approve a bond for these purposes,” he said in an email. “Other large capital needs prioritized by the council include a police station and replacement of old fire stations.”
For now, Stancil said he also is compiling a list of town-owned buildings that could be sold. There is a “slim to none” chance that state and federal money will be available, he said.
Bell suggested the town also consider naming sports fields and buildings for big donors, while council member Laurin Easthom asked what role the county might play.
The town could work with the county to build a district park on roughly 79 acres on Millhouse Road, Williams said. Building it to attract sports tournaments also could boost the economy, he said.
The town also might work with Carrboro, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the Triangle Land Conservancy, council members said. Member Ed Harrison also suggested asking about the American Legion Post property, which former Town Manager Cal Horton secured the town’s right to buy in 2005.
Steve Scanga, head volleyball coach at Carrboro High School, asked the council to also keep in mind the local demand for beach volleyball courts.
Hundreds of girls try out every year for regional and high school teams, but the closest courts are in Cary, preventing Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill from forming teams, he said. Families already have pledged more than $18,000 toward the cost of sand courts, he said.
The Parks Master Plan identified the nonprofit Friends of Chapel Hill Parks, Recreation and Greenways as another fund-raising partner.
Neal Bench, a town Planning Board member with the Friends group, said they have raised money for benches and to build other greenway projects.