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Jonathan Creek park moves closer to reality

Haywood County commissioners decided Monday to move forward with the design phase for a proposed public park and sports field in Jonathan Creek.

The county’s Recreation and Parks Department is accepting conceptual proposals from local consultants until Dec. 30.

Though the public park is a recreational priority, the recession has pushed the project to the backburner.

“This has always been one of our front projects,” said Claire Carleton, recreation director for Haywood. “But [we realize] that this is not the time to ask for additional county funding.”

Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick is looking forward to making progress on the park.

“We really need to proceed with a plan if we’re going to do anything with this in the future,” said Kirkpatrick. “The property is just sitting there.”

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The 2007 comprehensive master plan calls for lighted baseball/softball fields, picnic facilities, creek access, a multipurpose field and sustainable design concepts at the new park.

The planning and design stage, which will include public input, is expected to take four to six months.

As of now, about $15,250 has been set aside for the planning process. Most will be funded with tourism revenue, with about $10,000 coming from lodging taxes collected in Maggie Valley and Waynesville.

Much public money has already been invested in the proposed park since 2007.

The county dropped $1 million on the 22-acre parcel in the midst of a heated bidding war that year. Soon after the county successfully bought the property, it became entangled in a lawsuit with a farmer who argued the property owner, Lucius Jones, had promised the land would be signed over to him upon Jones’ death.

The county did not settle the case until November 2008, and since then it has been leasing the property to the very same farmer.

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