James HowellStaff Writerjhowell@civitasmedia.com
January 6, 2013
Greater Lansing Area Development (GLAD) is spearheading a project to increase the length of the creeper walking trail to about seven miles long, turning it into a park.
A public meeting was held at the Lansing Volunteer Fire Department on Thursday, Jan. 3, to get input from the community about expanding the park. The meeting was also a requirement for a grant needed to pursue the project.
“This meeting is just one of 77 pages required for the grant,” said Ann Rose, GLAD’s project manager.
The walking trail is currently 3,500 feet paved, and the area is home to the Ola Belle Reed Festival.
“As great at the current trail is, it could be much more,” said Rose. After the meeting, Rose said the extension of the park could extend the walking trail to seven miles long, maybe even longer.
The $1 million grant Rose is pursuing covers both land and development. Rose said it is one of the few grants that also pays for land.
“We have three qualities the grant looks for – we are small, poor, and rural,” said Rose.
The grant will match Lansing dollar for dollar up to $500,000. If Lansing requests $1 million for the project, the grant will only cover $500,000, leaving the other half for Lansing to pay.
However, Rose said the town can apply for other grants to help pay for the remainder.
The grant has several stipulations regarding the use and infrastructure of the land. The park must include a parking lot and all of the park’s utilities must be buried underground. Also, the grant stipulates the park would forever be parkland.
To move forward with this project, Lansing will need to appraise three different properties and talk to each owner before pursuing the land.
Several community members had ideas about what should be added to the park, including installing a community garden, a dog park, an ice skating rink, and camping sites.
One of the three properties GLAD is pursuing for this project is the hayfield behind the Lansing Volunteer Fire Department. This land could be used for a disc golf course or a soccer field.
“One flat spot in the county and everyone makes plans for it,” joked an audience member.
GLAD members in attendance were also enthusiastic about incorporating the existing infrastructure on the property they want to acquire.
A nearby barn could be used as another stage for the Ola Belle Reed Festival. The Barn could also be used as space for barn dancing, which would also promote local mountain music.
A nearby cinder block building could be utilized as a shower house for campers, or as an office for the park.
“Once this grant comes through, the possibilities could be endless,” said Rose.
Additions will also be made to the walking trail. Adding lights to the trail will allow people to walk after dark, and adding a nature trail will identify the different plant and animal species indigenous to the area.
To beautify the park, Rose suggested adding edible landscaping like apple trees and blueberry bushes, which should draw more wildlife to the area.
Another idea discussed at the meeting was maximizing trout fishing in the park. Several members of the Lansing community have noticed and increase in fishermen who are not locals.
This increase could be attributed to new stream reports from resources like flyfishingnc.com that list Helton Creek and Big Horse Creek as desirable trout fishing locations.
The only draw back is the walking trail must be 25 foot away from trout waters.
A wooded or concrete platform could be added for visitors to fish off of. Adding railing and a ramp to this area would make the fishing platform handicap accessible and also provide a safety net for children who use the area to fish.
While developing the park, GLAD will need to consider adding access spaces for trout trucks to add fish.
During the meeting, maintaining the park was mentioned.
To this point, the Lansing Volunteer Fire Department maintained the park’s grounds while the town maintained the walking trail.
With the increasing size of the park, Rose said she doubts the entire park could be maintained using only volunteers.
“In the future, we will need to have an operating budget,” said Rose.
One audience member suggested using high school students as volunteer because they have mandatory volunteer hours.
Wendy also added people who use the walking trail may also help maintain it. In that way, the entire community itself would be enlisted as a volunteer.
Rose concluded the town could come together and figure out a way to maintain the park if they manage to get the grant.
This meeting served as an opportunity for members of the community to have their voices heard, and no one in attendance spoke out against expanding the park.
Most of the community members were excited about the park’s potential impact on the town.
“I think expanding the park could change everything for Lansing,” said Rose.