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Sylva proposal includes performance area, market space

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

In an effort to heal wounded relationships in the downtown Sylva community, local residents and leaders are uniting to develop an underused area of downtown into an attractive, accessible and functional public park.

Representatives of the Town of Sylva, the Downtown Sylva Association, Jackson County Greenway Commission, Jackson County Farmers’ Market, Western Carolina University and downtown merchants are orchestrating a community effort to create a covered performance area, market space, public garden, and improved parking at the municipal parking lot located just off Mill Street in downtown.

“We see this as a more financially feasible and community-based effort to redo that space,” said Sarah Graham, a downtown resident and DSA board member who is coordinating the project.

The project adopts DSA plans to build a gazebo, but also ties in with the Town of Sylva’s plan to build a footbridge from the municipal parking pot to Poteet Park, the Sylva pool and the cluster of town government buildings on the north side of Scotts Creek.

“I think the projects will compliment each other,” said Mayor Brenda Oliver.

Installation of the pre-engineered, pre-fabricated bridge should be completed by December, Oliver said. The bridge will make for easier access between the municipal parking lot and popular pool and park area, potentially easing parking woes. Currently, one must walk from the pool area to Grindstaff Cove, across a well-traveled vehicle bridge and past Moody Funeral Home’s crematorium to get to the parking lot.

The bridge should cost the town approximately $22,000, which will be taken from the town’s Urban Development Action Grant monies. The UDAG is a federal source that supplies revolving loan funds. The program was created to facilitate public-private partnerships in the targeted redevelopment and economic recovery of urban areas. Constructing the bridge has been in the works for the town for a while.

“It’s just something that’s getting put on the front burner and getting accomplished,” Oliver said.

The first phase of developing the park involves the creation of the stage, lawn, market space, gardens, and pedestrian walkway from Railroad Avenue to Scotts Creek. Access from Main Street also will be a focus, as improvements to the Mill Street crosswalk and the path across the railroad tracks are necessary. Facilitating these connections will make it easier for pedestrians to get from downtown shopping to public restrooms, which are located near the pool.

Graham said that rather than look to any one organization to revitalize the area, the project will rely on a coalition of downtown supporters and community involvement.

“We are going to begin our initial fundraising by gather in kind donations,” Graham said.

Site prep work is needed, as is lumber, construction labor and landscaping materials. Anyone interested in participating is encourage to attend the group’s next planning meeting to be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 2 in the municipal parking lot. In case of rain, the meeting will be moved to the pavilion at Poteet Park.

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