Tremendous public input for parks & rec master plan; $8.5 million estimated cost

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
The Black Mountain Town Council met March 1 in a special call meeting to hear a presentation on the new parks and recreation master plan.

The public has spoken, and Black Mountain is listening.

Black Mountain Town Council gathered for a special call meeting March 1 to hear a presentation for the town’s Recreation & Parks Department master plan.

The presentation comes after the council listed implementing the plan as its top priority for the year during a council retreat Feb. 25.

The draft plan, presented by James Ford, a land planner with McGill Associates, details improvements that could be made to the parks and recreation facilities in town over the next 10 years. In total, Ford estimated the cost to be more than $8.5 million, but he said this number could increase as costs continue to rise.

In order to come up with recommendations for town, Ford said McGill Associates used “a lot” of public input.

“There’s a lot of different interests represented in this plan,” Ford said. “You are an eclectic town with lots of different interests, and recreation is huge.”

He said he has been doing this job for 15 years and has probably seen more input in Black Mountain than he has anywhere else.

Ford said 292 participants attended seven different drop-in meetings to have their voices heard. Additionally, 838 surveys were completed, representing 1,423 individuals making up 17% of the town population, according to Ford. He said he also spoke with 45 participants, including Town Council members, over seven focus/stakeholder groups.

During this public input period, Ford said he was able to come up with a list of the residents' top 10 preferences. Topping the list with 160 votes is a want for a multi-sports complex. Ford said this points to a want for year-round recreation facilities.

Mayor Michael Sobol inquired about using the old Bi-Lo building as an indoor recreation and community center. Ford said this would be up to the council to make the final decision, but it could perhaps be a possibility.

McGill Associates complied a list of a top 10 amenities based on public input.

One question on the survey asked if the respondent would be in favor of expanding recreational opportunities in the town. Of those who responded, 98% were in favor.

Ford also pointed out a question that asked if residents were willing to pay a “nominal” fee to use a facility. Of those who responded, 89% were willing to pay.

For existing parks and facilities, Ford recommended putting up entry and wayfinding signs at each park to create a cohesive brand across town recreation facilities. He also gave specific recommendations for each town-owned recreation facility, along with a price tag associated with each project.

“Existing facility maintenance and repair,” Ford said. “This is huge. Why? Because you have extremely nice facilities that are well-loved, but loved to death. Things have to be maintained. More importantly than building new, in my opinion, is taking what you’ve got and making it what it needs to be.”

 In general, Ford said the plan focused on “accessibility and connectivity.”

More:Town Council lists parks & rec study as top priority for upcoming year

Council member Pam King thanked the team behind the plan and residents who participated in public input. She said she was ready to make all the improvements, but expectations need to be managed.

“I want all of this,” King said. “I also want to say out loud that I’m pretty sure we’re going to disappoint every single person in this room in one way or another.”

Ford said he wanted to stress that the plan was not a promise to do anything, but instead a guide of what could be done when funding is available.

No action was taken during the special call meeting, and the plan remained in its draft stage so changes can still be made at the town or council’s request. Once adopted, the town can start applying for grants and allocating funds to implement changes outlined in the plan.