Spencer’s new park plans focus on trails, green space

Published 12:02 am Friday, April 15, 2022

SPENCER — Spencer has adopted a new 10-year plan for its parks that places a big emphasis on trails and gathering places.

The plan was created by planning and architecture firm Benesch at the behest of the town. The firm surveyed the town and organized drop-in workshops to get an idea of some priorities, and walking trails as well as park amenities like picnic shelters, gathering space and playgrounds came out on top.

The firm also polled the level of support for different efforts, and 73% of respondents listed a park or green space in the downtown area as something they would be most willing to fund with tax dollars.

The results also pointed to financial hardship and emotional isolation and grief as the most difficult part of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey also identified four overall issues respondents want the town to work on:

• Better housing and increased home ownership

• More jobs and economic development

• More retail development and retention

• More activities and community events.

Ultimately, the plan makes a long list of recommendations for parks and recreation, including developing a new park downtown as well as in the northwest section of town, adding fitness opportunities, expanding gathering places and upgrading playgrounds.

For trails, the plan recommends working with Rowan County and Salisbury to develop greenway connectivity and improve connectivity between the town’s parks and neighborhoods, schools and businesses. The plan would add more sidewalks and bike lanes and develop a trailhead on the town’s side of the Yadkin River.

The presentation came with a cost estimate for the first phase of the new park: $1.175 million including a contingency fund.

Some of the points in the recommendations are familiar topics for the town. The Board of Aldermen actively supports building a park on its existing Park Plaza property and developing a trailhead that will connect into the town and complement the work on the Davidson County side of the Yadkin.

The town has also received private donations to help fund both projects and has contracted with Benesch to design them.

The plan also makes recommendations for programming and the town’s facilities, including performing an Americans with Disabilities Act assessment of each park, ensuring all the facilities are accessible with the necessary parking.

On the programming side, the plan recommends “educational, healthy and active programs and opportunities for all ages and abilities, especially fitness and exercise equipment.” It specifically mentions adding a splash pad and fitness stations.

The plan addresses each existing facility as well.

Among the recommendations are converting the vacant concrete pad in Eighth Street Ball Park to a flexible court, adding a ramp to the Library Park Gazebo, adding hill slides and climbing rocks in Rowan Park, adding understory plants for seasonal interest in Jefferson Street Park and adding trail maps to parking areas at Stanback Educational Forest.

The plan pointed to priority projects for the next 10 years. The new park downtown is at the top of the list along with upgrades to Rowan Park, the ballpark and building a new greenway.

The plan doesn’t bind the town to take on the projects and Benesch specifically advised the town to prioritize the projects in the plan within its budget.

The up-to-date plan is required to apply for an N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant. The town will apply for the grant by early next month, and it could receive up to $500,000 to fund the new downtown park through the program.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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