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Clyde park to reopen

River’s Edge Park in Clyde was designed as a flood storage channel, but also doubles as a park and playground. Cory Vaillancourt photo River’s Edge Park in Clyde was designed as a flood storage channel, but also doubles as a park and playground. Cory Vaillancourt photo

Much like the Pigeon River itself, it’s been a long and winding journey for the Town of Clyde in recovering from the devastating floods of 2004, but after a few turbulent stretches in its redevelopment, River’s Edge Park off Thickety Road will finally re-open to the public. 

“When the floods hit, funds came out for recovery,” said Clyde Town Administrator Joy Garland. “Canton, Clyde, Newland and I think Biltmore could utilize that funding, so we had a stakeholders group that came together, some of our board members, some county folks. We kind of brainstormed what we could use this funding for, how it would make us less vulnerable. That’s how this park project came to be.”

Garland said they took the stakeholders down to the bend in the Pigeon River near Broad Street.

“When the heavy rains came, it just couldn’t hold. It jumped and came out on Broad Street and flooded that whole area,” she said. “So we felt that if we could do something in that curve, it would help.”

Challenges immediately presented themselves; when contractors got to the site to begin planning, they discovered a number of rare species that couldn’t be disturbed, so the town began to focus on the opposite bank of the river. 

“Thickety Road went down right next to the river, so we thought, if we could move that road, get it out of the danger zone and make that a flood storage channel, then we could use it secondarily as a park,” she said. 

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That’s led to some confusion, according to Garland. 

“A lot of folks don’t understand that — why did you build a park in a floodway? Well, we built a flood storage area first, and it acts as a park when it’s not needed for the flood storage,” she said. 

The $1.4 million project involved substantial site prep, and in late 2013 was considered “finished” — until the rains came. 

“The design basically failed,” she said. “It was not doing what it was supposed to do, so it was creating a lot of maintenance for us. We were having to buy a lot of equipment to get in there and work, we were having to keep it closed part of the time.”

That’s when the North Carolina Community Conservation Assistance Program, Haywood Waterways and the Pigeon River Fund stepped in to help. 

“Several of these entities came and said, you know what, this is a good plan, let’s see what we can help do,” said Garland. “We started out with Haywood Waterways and the Pigeon River Fund. They actually gave us $26,500 to do a master plan.”

That plan included ground cover restoration, buffer vegetation, shoreline protection and educational signage.

“But with all the rain we were getting, it was undermining the sidewalk and things of that nature, so we had to back up,” she said. 

A second attempt to redevelop the site was initiated in November 2017. 

“It was supposed to be a two-month project, but there was like 13 times we had lots of rain, and every time it would rain, it would wash away everything the contractor was doing,” said Garland. “So we really thought this project was never going to make it.”

The design, she said, is now effectively handling excess rainfall; all in all, it cost the town less than $20,000. 

“We had some final trees to get in and that’s what happened in the last few weeks, but the design is working – it’s holding. It is not washing away. It did exactly what it was supposed to do,” said Garland. “It’s been a task, to say the least, but we’re really pleased with how it’s turned out.”

The town will celebrate the park’s reopening with an event at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 18, in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 980. After a short ceremony to thank the funding agencies, there will be a picnic with free hot dogs, chips and cookies.

“It’s kind of a celebration, giving back,” said Garland. “Let’s just cross our fingers it doesn’t rain.”

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