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State budget funds might cover Allen Street repairs

A photo from October 2020 shows the bulge that earth movement from the uphill slope failure has created at the entrance to Bryson Park. NCGS photo A photo from October 2020 shows the bulge that earth movement from the uphill slope failure has created at the entrance to Bryson Park. NCGS photo

More than $3 million in the recently enacted state budget will help Sylva reopen Bryson Park, install long-discussed public bathrooms downtown and possibly assist with the expensive repairs the town faces on Allen Street. 

“We are very grateful to Senator Corbin and Representative Clampitt for their help during this budget process,” said Town Manager Paige Dowling. “Appropriations in this budget fund needs the Town of Sylva has had for a very long time.”

The budget  includes $3 million for a line item titled “Town of Sylva Playground Equipment,” a sum equal to more than 60% of the town’s total budget for the year. However, Dowling is still seeking clarification on how that money can be used. 

The playground in question is Bryson Park, a small city park located along Chipper Curve Road at the base of a steep slope. That slope has failed, pushing mud, rocks and water into the park; causing pavement at the entrance and parking lot to buckle; and possibly resulting in water damage to the restrooms located on the slope side of the park. The park has been closed for more than a year, first because of the pandemic and then because of the slope failure. 

“As everything has opened up, it is our wish to repair and reopen Bryson Park,” Dowling said. “It is used by the minority community in which it is located, and also by the rest of Sylva.”

But before the town can start fixing Bryson Park, it has to repair Allen Street , which runs along the failed slope above the park. A section of that road has been closed since April 2020, and an estimate delivered in August predicted it would cost $2 million to fix — a sum well outside the town’s financial reach. In June, the town requested $250,000 apiece from contingency funds controlled by the N.C. House, N.C. Senate and N.C. Secretary of Transportation to help foot the bill, but Dowling has not yet received a response to those requests. It’s unclear, said Dowling, whether the town can use the $3 million appropriated for playground repairs to help fix Allen Street or if the legislature will have to pass a technical correction to its budget bill so that money can be used for both of the related projects. 

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The Bryson Park aspect, said Dowling, would include repairing the slope failure with drains and soil nails, grading and paving the entrance and parking area, repairing the restrooms and replacing the existing playground equipment, which has been in use for more than 15 years. 

A separate line item in the budget provides the town $250,000 for a public restroom , an amenity the board has desired to add for years spanning multiple terms and changes in membership. That money should cover the cost of constructing the bathroom, said Dowling, but the location is still in question. 

The board has discussed building the bathroom at the former depot site, which would allow access for both downtown customers and visitors to Bridge Park. However, that property is owned by the railroad, so placing the restroom there would require a lease agreement. Board members have also suggested placing it at Bridge Park or on Spring Street. 

“Sylva has needed a public restroom for a long time, so we would hope to get this started soon,” said Dowling. “Every year, the town board adds a public restroom to our budget ‘wants’ list.  Every year, there is never enough money to fund this. Having a public restroom in Sylva’s downtown will be an asset for businesses, citizens and tourists.” 

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