Plan for park at landfill site prompts China Grove to restart parks board

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 20, 2017

By Josh Bergeron

CHINA GROVE — With an eye on developing a tract once used as a landfill, the town on Thursday restarted a Parks and Recreation Advisory Board that hadn’t met in months.

Late last year, town staff and council members began researching whether it was possible to redevelop a closed landfill on Patterson Street into some sort of park. Exact plans haven’t been determined, but the town has hired an engineer to oversee an assessment of the landfill. Baseball and softball fields have been mentioned as a possibility for the property.

Mayor Lee Withers and others in town say the landfill mostly contains yard debris, such as tree limbs and leaves. It’s unclear whether any household waste was ever placed in the landfill.

In order to secure a grant to help redevelop the closed landfill, town staff say China Grove needed to restart its parks board. The Patterson Street property, which measures about 40 acres, is the “biggest opportunity” for the parks board, but the town hopes the board also develops other wellness-related ideas, Withers said.

“Really, it hasn’t been active in several years,” Withers said about the parks board. “Let’s just be honest. The town board hasn’t really given them anything to do. So now the charge from the town board is to give us a vision, speak on behalf of the community, bring it to us and then let us know what we need to do.”

One of the first items on Thursday’s agenda was to pick a chairman and vice chairman.

Emily Mabrito, an architect, was elected chairwoman. Mabrito said she wants to get involved in the parks board to ensure her children and others in town have more to do. Mabrito said she wants to help “give the parks some TLC.”

Jason Harrington, an engineer, was elected vice chairman.

The board spent the remainder of the hourlong meeting brainstorming ideas for parks- and recreation-related events or projects.

Some of the ideas included: creating a greenway extending from the Patterson Street site to other areas in town; partnering with the YMCA for wellness programs or exercise classes at the community building, a community garden; a splash pad; hosting “tough mudder” events; an amphitheater; a self-guided historic tour around town; a stage in Hanna Park; and outdoor eating areas.

Town Councilman Charles Seaford, a liaison to the parks board, said he hopes the board finds ways to bring people into town and, as a result, people “talk to each other again.”

The parks board has $20,000 it could spend on projects before the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year — June 30 — said Town Event Coordinator Patti Price. She encouraged the board to draft a master plan for the town’s parks in time to be included in the 2017-18 budget.

The next parks board meeting is at 6 p.m. Feb. 16 at Town Hall. It’s open to the public.

Seaford and Town Councilman Rodney Phillips are liaisons to the board. Residents appointed to the parks board are Alan Corriher, Jim Solomon, Barbara Doby, Joel Maynor, Mabrito, Jason Higgins, Harrington, Andrew Shell and Kevin Keiger.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeorn at 704-797-4246.