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Maggie Valley considers waterfall park proposal

Maggie Valley will soon decide whether or not to develop a waterfall park on a property it has had in its possession for over 17 years. 

Just off of Old Still Road, the Town of Maggie Valley owns eight acres that is home to a long, cascading waterfall. The town is considering developing this land into a public park, complete with trails and waterfall observation decks. However, because the property lies within a residential area, public feedback to the idea has been mixed. 

Mosaic Civic Design Studio and Mattern and Craig Engineers were hired to conduct a survey to determine public interest and present the town with feasible design options for the property. At a Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday, March 16, Mosaic shared results of the survey with the board, as well as preliminary design concepts for development. 

The survey was conducted online, with 261 people participating. Of those, 175 were Maggie Valley residents, 52 were visitors, 28 were community members, and 39 either own a business, or work, in Maggie Valley. Mosaic presented different design concepts to participants of the survey to determine what sort of park the public would be most interested in — concepts included hiking trails, waterfall observation decks, parking, picnic tables, rest and reflection areas with benches and overlook decks with seating. Hiking trails were most popular, with 64.8 percent of respondents choosing the amenity as one they would like to see at the park. Waterfall observation decks and parking were next in line with 60.5 and 50.6 percent respectively. 

In the survey to the public, Mosaic also tried to determine what would be the most popular name for the park. The three most popular names chosen were Hidden Falls Park, Moonshine Falls and Big Spring Falls. 

The team determined that about 21 percent of people who participated in the survey don’t want a park developed on the property at all. 

Parking has been a particular concern for the project. There is currently no parking near the waterfall, and the road that runs closest to it is a narrow, residential road. Mosaic presented two options for parking and road construction. One would turn Old Still Road into a loop road that would maintain one-way traffic. This design would be able to offer 16 parking spaces. The other option would create only nine parking places, would maintain two-way traffic and would involve less road construction. 

According to Teresa Buckwalter, the landscape architect from Mosaic that presented the information to the board, creating a loop in the road and a one-way would help keep visitor traffic out of private properties and driveways further up Old Still Road. 

After conducting the survey and determining the most popular amenities, Buckwalter presented three big picture design concepts to the board. She said that in the three concepts she was presenting, “the team was really promoting a system of trails, and a way for people to safely access that system of trails.”

Concept A involves the least construction, would use the two-way road construction and have nine parking spaces available. It would have 992 linear feet of trails, three overlook platforms and two trail bridges. Base construction costs are $502,000.

Concept B would use the one-way, loop road construction and have 16 available parking spaces. It would have 2,257 linear feet of trails, three overlook platforms and three trail bridges. Base construction costs are $638,000. 

Concept C would also use the one-way, loop road construction with 16 parking spaces, three trail bridges and three overlook platforms, but this design would have 3,612 linear feet of trails. Base construction costs are $661,000. 

“From a cost perspective, it benefits you all to look at the most amount of parking you can get,” said Buckwalter. “Because if the demand is there, you’re going to have to go back and figure out, ‘how can we get more parking spots in there?’”

All of these designs could include a restroom area, which would raise construction costs up to $120,000. In each design, one waterfall overlook platform would be ADA accessible. 

Alderman Phillip Wight asked if the town could choose some mix of the designs presented. Town Manager Nathan Clark said part of why the town gave the bid to Mosaic and Mattern and Craig Engineers is because the town would be able to choose different components of different concepts to decide on the final design. The town would also be able to choose sub packages to develop the property in the exact manner it wants. 

There will be opportunities for the public to voice their opinion about the proposed project at future town meetings before any decisions are made. Regardless of what the town decides, Mayor Mike Eveland has made it clear he would like to see a decision made on this property this year. At the 2021-22 budget retreat, he said the town would decide to develop the property or sell it.

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