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Recreation improvements coming to Waynesville

Recreation improvements coming to Waynesville

The active, outdoorsy lifestyle favored by residents of Western North Carolina has long been fostered by the Town of Waynesville, but if all goes according to recently released plans, it’s about to get much, much better.

“The commitment that was made to creating Recreation Park started back in the ‘80s,” said Mayor Gavin Brown. “The Town of Waynesville boards back then always wanted to have a state-of-the-art recreation facility, and by the ‘90s they realized that they were going to do it. It was a great effort on their behalf.”

Although that facility has been met with great appreciation by residents, the town is nevertheless looking to the future as it prepares to implement a master recreational plan created by Chicago-based consultants Alfred Benesch and Company. 

The plan, which took months to assemble, included a robust amount of public input, both through surveys and public meetings. 

“I’m extremely satisfied with the plan,” said Waynesville Parks and Recreation Director Rhett Langston. “We got precisely 442 responses on our survey, and about 100 visitors to the public meetings. We got not only a lot of good numbers, but a lot of good representation from different ages. I think it was a very well-spoken representation of the community.” 

Langston and Benesch consultant Derek Williams presented the 10-year, $10 million plan to town aldermen Jan. 24. 

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The first step, Williams said, was to inventory existing facilities and acreage; the results revealed that Waynesville has six parks and 52 acres of land devoted to recreation.

During the meeting, Brown asked Williams to give the town’s parks a letter grade. Williams said that grade would be “at least a ‘B.’”

“For a town with less than 10,000 people to have that rec center that you’ve got, with the gymnasiums, racquetball, indoor aquatics and all that — that is pretty unusual,” Williams said, calling it a “first-rate” facility. Town Manager Rob Hites — a veteran of local government statewide, agreed. 

But there is room for improvement, and the plan presents several possibilities based on recommendations from both the public and the National Recreation and Park Association.

“Certainly, they [the NRPA] are the authority on park needs and park classifications,” said Williams. “They go out of their way to say there are no national standards, so we established standards for Waynesville. But with that said, as you’re going through this process, you look and see what other communities are using and what the NRPA had done in the past.”

One deficiency noted in the plan is that for a town of Waynesville’s size, there should be around 10 acres of recreational property per thousand residents — or about a hundred, compared to the current 52.

“I was surprised by that number,” Brown said. “I found it interesting. Some of our property is a little difficult to develop into parks, and it’s been pointed out that the Cavalry Street lots are a little steep so trying to do things there might be a little tough, but I am not adverse to adding to our inventory of land.”

The town has recently sought to purchase three blighted lots off Pigeon Street from Haywood County for utilization as a park; on Feb. 6, the county agreed to enter into negotiations with the town for the lots, which have also drawn interest from the private sector. 

Although those lots will come cheap, the rest of the plan — estimated at $5.7 million through 2021 and $4.1 million from 2022 to 2026 — will not. 

“We just raised taxes almost 5 cents per $100 for the fire department,” said Brown. “So how am I going to pay for this?” 

Much like the Town of Canton’s pool financing issue, the retirement of existing long-term debt could allow for a slight budget surplus to be directly applied to plan. Brown said that the debt for the Recreation Park facility will be satisfied in budget year 2017-18, allowing the town to begin addressing a long list of needs and wants. 

Community input indicates overwhelming support for the town’s skateboard park.

“I think the quality of that skateboard park — there’s a bunch of towns that have skateboard parks, but that’s a really nice skateboard park,” Williams said. Lights, restrooms and water fountains top skaters’ wish lists.

The tennis courts are also very popular, but would be more so with the inclusion of restrooms and shelters. 

Recreation Center improvements suggested include the expansion of the weight room, aerobics areas and spin rooms, as well as the addition of a therapy pool and outdoor splash pad. 

Walking and biking are also popular local activities; respondents communicated a desire for expanded trails and improvements to the Arboretum Trail as well as a community park and amphitheater. 

Declining in interest is the sport of softball, which could mean the elimination of the field at Recreation Park. 

The final opportunity for the public to weigh in on these and other proposed recreational improvements — as well as the price tag — is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, in the Waynesville Town Hall Board Room, 9 South Main St. 


Speak out

The final opportunity for the public to weigh in on the proposed Waynesville Parks and Rec master plan is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, in the Waynesville Town Hall Board Room, 9 South Main St.

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