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Planned parks in flux

Lanierland venue under consideration

POSTED: September 2, 2013 12:30 a.m.
 

Forsyth County commissioners continue to tweak the plans for two future northern parks.

Eagle’s Beak Park and Lanierland Park have been considered as potential sites for several uses since the county began developing conceptual plans in 2010. The commission reviewed the plans again last week.

On Tuesday, the board voted 4-0, with Commissioner Brian Tam absent, to abandon current discussions on partnering with local archery and BMX groups at Eagle’s Beak.

Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who represents the county’s northern District 4, said Eagle’s Beak wasn’t a good fit for either activity since the park had been purchased with the intent for passive uses.

The county could reimburse the green space fund to allow for active use on about 34 acres, but the budget just isn’t there, Mills said.

BMX, or bicycle motocross, was first included conceptually for Eagle’s Beak, but was moved to Lanierland earlier this year due to its active use and need for lighting.

But BMX’s future at the northeastern Forsyth site has been sidetracked for now as the commission reviews the possibility of reviving the concert venue at Lanierland.

The popular music facility that closed in 2006 could house a variety of events at the future park.

The engineering assessment of the venue, presented Tuesday to the commission, determined that the metal structure is sound, but in need of repairs and parts replacement, said Tim Merritt, deputy county manager.

The commission is awaiting the results of an upcoming feasibility study before determining what audience size the venue should be renovated to accommodate, if at all.

“We’re hoping the feasibility study will point us in a more clear direction,” Mills said. “Once we have the feasibility as to the uses, the potential for money that we might make, and all those things, then we can make a decision. Do we want to keep it or do we want to tear it down?”

If the answer is to keep it, the parking needs could displace the area marked for BMX track to make way for about 275 spaces.

Lanierland is still an option for BMX, depending on the feasibility study results, Mills said. She added the county is still “looking at other places.”

The concert venue could be a blow to the club’s aspirations to have a track in the community, but the failure to reach agreement on a memorandum of understanding further dashed those hopes in the eyes of Ryan Kramer, president of Forsyth County BMX.

Kramer said on Friday that he was disappointed in the board’s decision.

“They left it as an open possibility, but essentially, we’re in a situation where the commissioners want to spend the budget on the music center and the ball fields for Lanierland,” Kramer said. “At this point, our understanding from the parks and rec department is that there’s a very slim chance BMX will occur at all.”

The group has worked with the county for about three years on pursuing the project, and Kramer said he was excited in April after Mills agreed to put a BMX track in the plan.

The current plan for the 110-acre site includes four rectangular fields for team sports, which will move ahead in the first phase of construction, as well as baseball/softball fields, walking trails and a community building.

In the past few years, the site has also been suggested as a locale for an equestrian center and tennis complex.

Kramer said he feels traditional team sports with booster clubs, like baseball or football, have gotten a level of consideration not given to BMX.

“We certainly don’t have the same numbers that play baseball or soccer,” he said, “but it gives kids something else to do who don’t fit into that.”

He also said the group presented a plan asking the county to spend $200,000 to $250,000 up front for development of the track and associated needs through a memorandum of understanding that was never approved.

The group in turn planned to repay the costs through program fees in four years, and it hoped to attract regional or national events.

“Typically these facilities are paid for and built by a municipality and then a nonprofit group likes ours comes in and operates it and maintains it on behalf of the county,” Kramer said.

The group is still open to discussions with Forsyth, he said, but is also working with other counties on possibilities for a track.

Merritt said cost was a prohibitive factor for the county in signing a memorandum of understanding with the BMX group, which was approved conceptually in 2012.

County estimates determined the up-front cost would be about $350,000, he said.

The cost of creating the archery space was similar, and the county also had difficulty finding a legal entity that could sign the memorandum, he said.

The Forsyth County Archery Club, which falls under 4-H, has reached the limits of its leased space at Ducktown Park.

The costs of the range it had hoped to develop at Eagle’s Beak would have been about $337,000 to develop, Meritt said. An alternative location has not yet been identified for archery.

Eagle’s Beak, which has a $1 million budget, will feature a canoe launch, parking and restroom facilities in the first phase.

 

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