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Maggie moves forward with recreation plan

fr playgroundMaggie Valley resident June Johnson wants the town’s recreation plan to go far beyond fixing up an old playground behind town hall. She envisions the park renovations as just the beginning of greater things to come in the valley.

“A park is not simply having a piece of land and calling it a park — it’s a place where our five senses are activated,” she said during a public hearing last week. “I want to be sure what we do back here is merely a stepping stone to what we do throughout the valley. I want it to be a vision of building a sense of place in Maggie Valley.”

That’s exactly what Maggie Valley Planner Andrew Bowen wants to accomplish over the next several years. A public hearing was held during the last town board meeting to receive input from residents on the town’s recreation plan. 


The plan

Bowen presented a three-part plan to renovate the space behind town hall into a park that could be utilized by people of all ages. 

The first phase would include replacing the 30-year-old playground equipment, building a covered parental viewing area, installing a bocce ball and horseshoe court, making the walking trail handicap accessible, and adding benches, trash cans and picnic tables. The estimated cost is about $85,000.

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“When the park was built 30 years ago, things were much cheaper, but equipment is much safer now,” he said. “Leading playsets have a 30- to 35-year warranty because they limit the plastics used, which is why many are ruined in the sun. Now they use more metal and rubber.”

Phase two includes adding a second playset specifically for ages 2 to 5. The equipment also would include handicap accessible items for children with disabilities. 

Phase three, which is optional, includes installing a splashpad feature for children to use during the warm months. Bowen said splashpads could run about $70,000 depending on the setup and size, adding that the town could save money by doing the installation in-house. He said the town could seek another grant from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund in a few years to pay for the splashpad.

“This would help us to really stand out and have something different many don’t have,” Bowen said. “It’s a lot less work than a pool and the liability is a lot less.” 


Public comment

Johnson, who has led the effort to create several community gardens throughout the valley, was very much in support of the town’s recreation plans. She suggested a natural looking approach to the park, including wooden gazebo-like picnic shelters, a waterfall instead of a splashpad, bench swings and plenty of native plants and flowers. 

Maggie Valley resident Jay Ring questioned the need and feasibility of investing taxpayer money in a town park. 

“I appreciate what you’re trying to do. I’m not necessarily against it, but feel like a proposal to spend taxpayers’ dollars should have a feasibility study before a public hearing,” he told the board. “It’s not the town’s money — it’s our money that we have worked hard for. We’d like to see our money used as judiciously as possible.”

Ring questioned whether the amount of use the park would get would be worth the expense, and whether the town would have to spend additional money for maintenance and liability. 

Maggie Valley resident Jared Lee said he spent several years attending town meetings and working with the town of Waynesville to get the skate park built at its recreation center. 

“Talk to Waynesville and they will say it’s been a great success for them,” he said. “It’s arguably one of the best skate parks in Western North Carolina right now.”

While he knows a skate park is an expensive endeavor, he said it would create a popular, year-round attraction for the town as skateboarders travel all over the region to test out the different skate park terrains.

Lee said Maggie could build something smaller than Waynesville in order to be just one more stop for skaters traveling from Atlanta and other cities to enjoy the other outdoor opportunities in the mountains — camping, rafting, kayaking and snowboarding.  

Bowen read aloud six submitted public comments from residents who had their own ideas about recreation priorities. Several residents suggested restoring the walkway that runs next to the small waterfall on Old Still Road.  

Jim and Peggy Arnold said the waterfall didn’t get the visitation it deserved and restoring the stairway next to it would create one more outdoor asset for the town. 

Steve Simpson also requested that the town repair the stairs and restore accessibility to the trail. 

Randolph Williams said the “no trespassing” sign should be taken down so people can enjoy the short hike to the base of the falls.

Mayor Ron DeSimone later said that the waterfall property on Old Still Road above the Maggie Valley Club was given to the town years ago. 

“There’s limited room for parking on Old Still Road above the golf course, but the real issue is the liability,” he said. “The staircase is in disrepair and insurance companies refuse to cover it.”


Moving forward

After the public hearing, the board of aldermen authorized Bowen to apply for a $100,000 matching grant through the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. If the town’s application is approved, it would have to commit $50,000 of its own money.

Knowing the complexity of the process, Town Manager Nathan Clark said he and Bowen did some internal scoring, which showed the town’s application would be missing some points that couldn’t really be made up.  

“But if we try at least we can see where our strengths and weaknesses are,” Clark said.

Alderman Mike Eveland said he wasn’t for spending money on a feasibility study when it was clear that the playground equipment needed to be replaced.  

“Sometimes you just need to do it and get it done. I was probably against spending the amount of money we did on Parham Park, but now I see how much it’s used and it’s great,” he said. “What we have back there now is an embarrassment and at some point there has to be some kind of commitment. I agree we have to be careful with how we spend it, but doing nothing is just as bad as throwing money away.”

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