Mecklenburg County voters approved millions for park projects in a 2008 bond referendum. For almost a decade, 13 of the projects remained unfunded.
That changed Wednesday night, when county commissioners approved full funding for all the projects in the capital budget.
The decision came as part of a deal to cut the county’s role in the heavily debated Major League Soccer stadium proposed for the site of Memorial Stadium. Commissioners voted 5-3 to deed the site to the city of Charlotte – and to fully fund the remaining 2008 projects in the capital budget.
Two days before the meeting, County Manager Dena Diorio had proposed a plan to fund the 13 projects in parts – six projects would have been fully funded by 2023, while seven would have been partially funded but would require more money. The commissioners decided Diorio’s plan wasn’t enough.
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In 2008, voters approved $250 million in bond money for parks, greenways and recreation centers across Mecklenburg County. To date, 38 of the 75 planned projects have been completed.
Jim Garges, director of the county Park and Recreation department, said no one believed that completing the 2008 park bond projects would take this long, but the 2008 recession caused a large part of the delay.
The projects funded on Wednesday include new parks in Huntersville and Mint Hill, the locations of which are both identified as being within a “service gap area” of the county for parks. More than 10 miles of planned greenways are also newly funded, as well as improvements to Druid Hills Neighborhood Park and multiple recreation centers.
The projects will cost the county close to $50 million, and at least one project will be constructed in each of the six county commissioner districts.
“All those areas in the county have recreational need, so we’re going to take a big step forward in servicing those needs,” Garges said.
If the 13 projects were not in this year’s capital budget, it would have been 2024 before they would have been eligible for reconsideration of funding, three county commissioners said.
Garges said after the completion of all the Park and Recreation projects included in the capital budget, Mecklenburg County will have 100 miles of greenways.
County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour said the county’s tax dollars should go to core services, such as the Park and Recreation department, health and human services and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Ridenhour said if residents say parks are their priority, it should also be the county’s priority.
“By completing these projects we say, ‘We hear you, and we’ll make this a priority,’ ” he said.
Brian Cox, a member of the county’s Park and Recreation Commission, said the majority of citizens he’s talked to have been extremely supportive about the prospects of these park projects.
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“There’s a general excitement I haven’t seen in a while about parks and greenways in this community,” he said.
Metzler: 704-358-5433, @crmetzler
Funded 2008 projects
▪ Druid Hills Neighborhood Park (improvements)
▪ Ezell Farms Community Park in Mint Hill (new park)
▪ Mallard Creek Greenway – Mallard Creek Drive to David Taylor Drive including CATS Park and Ride (1.71 miles)
▪ Briar/Little Hope Creek Greenway – Keystone Court to Manning Drive (1.1 miles)
▪ McIntyre Creek Greenway – Beatties Ford to Clarencefield Drive (0.77 miles)
▪ Irwin Creek Greenway – Old Statesville Road to Allen Hills Park (2.2 miles)
▪ Eastfield Regional Park in Huntersville (new park)
▪ Briar Creek Greenway – Central Avenue to Commonwealth to Monroe Road (1.65 miles)
▪ Sugar Creek Greenway – Billy Graham Parkway to McDowell Farms Drive (3.3 miles)
▪ Naomi Drenan Recreation Center (improvements)
▪ Colonel Francis Beatty Regional Park (improvements)
▪ Mallard Creek Recreation Center (improvements)
▪ Park Road Park Shelter (improvements)