Northwest Park still not a sure thing

aramos@newsobserver.comMay 24, 2013 

Morrisville town leaders are considering options to build the long-awaited Northwest Park in the Breckenridge community.

ALIANA RAMOS - ARAMOS@NEWSOBSERVER

— It would cost less than expected to build Northwest Park, but it’s still unclear whether Morrisville will fund the long-awaited project.

Construction of the five-acre park off Parkland Drive could cost between $125,000 and $810,000, according to the latest staff estimates.

Those figures are significantly lower than original estimates, which slated the project to cost up to $2.5 million. The extra cost included the construction of 1,300 feet of new roadway on Louis Stephens Drive, which runs alongside the park.

After talking with the N.C. Department of Transportation, which owns the road, town staff found that Morrisville has some right-of-way access. That means the town could build a temporary gravel-road entrance to the park until the DOT paves Louis Stephens Road.

Construction bids for the 25-acre RTP Park are expected to arrive in July. Town Council members said they want to have a better sense of how much that park will cost before they decide whether the town can afford to build Northwest Park.

In the meantime, elected officials say they want to hear from residents who live in Breckenridge and other surrounding neighborhoods about what features they would like to see at Northwest Park.

The town is planning a public workshop, but a date hasn’t been set. The last workshop was in 2007, and many residents have moved in and out of the north side of town since then, said Mayor Jackie Holcombe.

Options for Northwest Park include sidewalks, walking trails, benches, picnic shelters, restrooms and an open play area.

Although the site is five acres, only about half of that is useable space – not enough to fit a soccer field, said Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Allen.

While the amenities and project cost are still pending, one thing is certain, said Councilman Steve Rao: Northwest Park needs to be developed.

The town could take a phased approach to build the park, first making it useable as a general play area with restrooms and then adding other features like a playground, he said.

About 700 people signed a petition in November asking the town to move forward with plans to build Northwest Park near the Breckenridge community. About 4,000 people, roughly one-fourth of Morrisville’s total population, live in the area.

Developer Pulte Homes donated five acres of land in 2005 for the park and paid the town $1.2 million in park fees. Those townwide park fees went to Morrisville Community Park and other projects.

“There seems to have been an expectation built up years ago ... where citizens believed that something would be built there,” Rao said. “Doing nothing ... isn’t an option. The question becomes, how do we prioritize?”

Councilman Steve Diehl said he doesn’t want the council to move forward with Northwest Park at this time. He said the town likely won’t have enough money available, and other town projects like RTP Park and the Cedar Fork Park ball fields are higher up on the list of priorities.

With only a few acres available at Northwest Park, Diehl said, “we get little bang for our buck.”

“We are spinning our wheels. ... Cedar Fork is a better service for all of Morrisville,” he said. “We have a waiting list for kids wanting to play baseball.”

Diehl and Councilwoman Liz Johnson said town leaders shouldn’t build up false expectations about the likelihood of getting the park completed any time soon – especially not with a potential price tag of about $800,000.

“I think we need more time on this whole issue,” Johnson said. This park is something the council is interested in and wants to develop, but there are other priorities.”

Ramos: 919-460-2609

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