Yadkin River Park and Spencer Trailhead aims for October groundbreaking

Published 12:02 am Sunday, September 25, 2022

SPENCER — The committee working on the Rowan County side of the Yadkin River Park, which connects via the Wil-Cox Bridge to Davidson County and will be a park spanning both counties, announced at its meeting Sept. 23 a goal of an October groundbreaking.

Spencer approved moving ahead with the project at the last town council meeting despite acknowledging that the $560,000 the city had put aside for the project was substantially less than the $700,000 bid on the project. The city noted Friday that it has approximately $600,000 currently available via additional donations, but is still in need of $100,000.

Ronnie Smith, founder of the non-profit organization Friends of Rowan, said the group continues to offer matching funds for donations, and said there is “an anonymous donor who will match the $100,000 contribution from Rowan County commissioners.” It was unclear if that donation has already been counted in the available funds, but Smith seemed confident the city would have the necessary funds to complete the project.

The city has signed an agreement with Hall Contracting Corporation out of Charlotte for construction of the proposed initial pathways, parking area, garden areas, visitor’s center and restrooms, and in presenting an update on the project, Special Projects Planner Joe Norris said “it’s about a 150-day contract,” start to finish. So if construction begins in November, by next spring, it is hoped the park will be ready for visitors, barring any construction delays. Norris said the company has already been investigating materials to be sure what they have chosen to work with will be minimally affected by possible shipping delays.

The committee discussed what is happening on the Davidson County side as well. Paul Mitchell, chairman of the Davidson County Yadkin River Park Committee and Guy Cornman, committee member, said Davidson County, which is ahead of the Rowan County side simply because it got started earlier.

“The design of the environmental center has been viewed by county commissioners and is ready to move forward,” said Cornman, noting the center will be where York Hill restaurant used to be. “The center will be designed to blend into, be a natural extension of the surrounding landscape,” he added.

“There are also some fairly severe security concerns, and we are working to get a deputy reassigned to that area,” said Mitchell.

The men invited all at the Rowan meeting to the Oct. 5 Davidson County meeting at 3 p.m.

“This has always been a unified project,” said Smith, who pointed out that future planned amenities include a children’s playground, a museum, and maybe even a cannon atop York Hill. Catawba College has offered a totem pole that is currently in storage and would need restoration, but would be a fitting tribute to Native American tribes that once called the banks of the river home, said Smith.

“This is not going to be a rest area on I-85,” explained Smith. “The dream is to make it one of the premier parks in the state.”

In addition, the park, on both sides, will be a nexus of several trail systems throughout the Piedmont, including the Piedmont Legacy Trail and the Mountain to Sea Trail.

The Wil-Cox Bridge was completed in 1924, and currently a debate is ongoing about when to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the bridge — on its inception or its completion. Right now, the majority seems to be leaning toward a 2024 date.

Meanwhile, the committee planned to reach out to Spencer Mayor Jonathan Williams to determine the best date for a groundbreaking ceremony for the Rowan County side of the park.