Maggie Valley starts planning process for waterfall park
When tourists visit this region, many of them come seeking the beauty and awe of the waterfalls that decorate the slopes of these mountains. One of those natural beauties is a long, cascading waterfall located off of Old Still Road in Maggie Valley.
However, more than 17 years after it was gifted to the town, it has no parking and remains largely inaccessible to visitors. Now, the town is one step closer to changing that.
At a special called meeting on Tuesday, June 16, the Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen heard presentations from Mosaic Civic Studio, Mattern and Craig Engineers and Destination by Design about possibilities for developing the property.
In 2002, BB&T donated the property to the Town of Maggie Valley after it had inherited the property from Haywood Savings and Loan. At the time there was an active sewage pump on the property that BB&T did not want to maintain. They donated the land to the town to be used as a park in exchange for the town taking over the sewage pump station. The town received $10,000 for maintenance of the sewage station and part of the land was required to remain a greenway or park area.
The town owns 6 acres of property that encompasses the waterfall. There are currently No Trespassing signs blocking a trail that leads to the waterfall, and the old staircase and viewing platform is rotting and broken from fallen trees. What’s more, the road leading to the waterfall is a narrow, dead end road in a residential area above Maggie Valley Golf Club.
“Our team would also include civil engineers with Mattern and Craig Engineering and a trail design and construction specialist with Benchmark Trails. So, it’s really kind of a three-firm team. We would be working with the town to determine what the options are for this property,” said Taylor Broyhill of Mosaic Civic Studio in Boone.
According to Broyhill, the process will require an analysis of both the topography and the built environment, the context of the surrounding neighborhood and natural features of the site.
Broyhill said this analysis will determine “what is physically possible from an environmental standpoint and a build standpoint. Then we develop concepts founded in that understanding, and then put those concepts out to the public as well for their input.”
Once the public has had the chance to give feedback, the team can refine those concepts and develop a more final plan for the property. Broyhill said the whole design process will take between eight and 12 months. The team will then provide the town with phases for the plan and bid packages that the town can put out for bid to begin construction as soon as funding is possible.
At the end of the meeting the board decided to accept the contract with Mosaic Civic Studio for $30,000. The money for the project was set aside in the 2019-20 budget, and therefore did not take any funds from the current 2020-21 budget.
“It’s something we’ve had for 15-plus years — we have to make a decision if we’re gonna do something with it or if we’re going to try and sell it or just move on from it. But in order to do that, we had to take this step,” said Mayor Mike Eveland.
In a follow-up interview, Alderman Phillip Wight said, “We’ve had this property in our possession. So, the question is, this is a beautiful cascading waterfall, what’s one of the greatest assets when people come to visit our region? They go out and look at waterfalls and go hiking and it’s just an added asset right in our backyard to develop something that the town owns.”
At the meeting the board discussed its ability to seek funding from different companies and entities in the community, host fundraisers, sell naming rights, memorials and enter public-private partnerships to help raise funds.
“The town financially is in a very stable position, even with the pandemic going on,” said Eveland. “If we get the vision that we’re looking for out of this, then that is a natural resource that I believe would be great if we can develop the land.”
Ed Evans of Mattern and Craig engineers said that there is also the opportunity for grant funding. According to Evans, grant funding can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. Agencies like to see the community involved and the project “shovel ready.”
“My vision is just something nice and peaceful and tranquil. It’s not gonna require a lot of maintenance once this thing is developed out. Added attraction for Maggie Valley, beautiful waterfall,” said Wight.