From a distance

SEPARATE ROOMS for the Wilkesboro Town Council (through the far left door) and members of the public (foreground) were observed during the council’s regular meeting Monday at the Wilkesboro Civic Center. The meeting was also live broadcast on the Zoom streaming internet platform.

The Town of Wilkesboro announced plans Monday to seek funding for the connection of Cub Creek Park to the Yadkin River Greenway and an expansion of the park’s trail system on county-owned land near the county courthouse and jail.

Greenway connection

In a meeting at the Wilkesboro Civic Center, the Wilkesboro council unanimously agreed to apply for a $255,000 N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant for half of the connector project. The town must match whatever grant amount is awarded.

The project hinges on the town’s acquisition of 41.3 acres west of Oakwoods Road, through which Cub Creek flows toward the Wilkesboro Wastewater Treatment Plant. The bottomland tract is owned by Furches Evergreens Inc., with an estimated price of $180,000.

“The priorities would be, first, to acquire the land, then, in my mind, construct the greenway because that’s the purpose for purchasing the land,” said Andrew Carlton, the town’s director of planning and community development.

The project budget of $510,000 includes a $150,000 expansion of the town’s planned handicapped-accessible playground, construction of the connector trail for $150,000 and miscellaneous costs of $30,000. The inclusive playground is slated for construction in the spring of 2021 west of Oakwoods Road. “If we get the rest of the funding, the playground expansion would be priority number three,” said Carlton.

The existing park walking trail would connect with the greenway by passing underneath Oakwoods Road via a vehicular/pedestrian bridge planned for 2021, following Cub Creek until it joins with Little Cub Creek, then continuing north under the East Main Street bridge below the treatment plant. The connection point would be at the eastern terminus of the Lowe’s Trailhead at Cornerstone Church in Wilkesboro.

“The proposed acquisition is level and cleared, presenting no difficulties for constructing a paved walking trail along Cub Creek to the greenway terminus,” noted Carlton, adding that steps would be taken in construction to avoid flooding the bottomland trail.

The connection would link the 9.5 miles of greenway trails to the 8.3 miles of Cub Creek Park trails. This would be the first linking to trails beyond the park’s boundaries.

Should the project budget remain at $510,000, Carlton said the town’s parks and recreation capital improvement budget would be increased to $127,500 for each of the fiscal years 2021 and 2022. The Cub Creek Master Plan of 2018 would be amended to state that acquisition of the Furches parcel is a priority.

Trail expansion

The five-plus-mile expansion of the Cub Creek trail system off Courthouse Drive would include two new loops, a new trail access point, five jump lines, boardwalks and other wooden features, berms and rollers.

The project has a total budget of $203,000. The town will apply for a Recreation Trails Program grant of $162,000 and the town’s match would be 25% of the federal grant, or $41,000, according to Carlton. The town’s match would be the in-kind labor and material needed to build the wooden features of the new trails.

Jim Horton, a Wilkes County native and current resident of Mooresville, is designing the expansion for the town. He has previously designed and cut in the 8.3 miles of trail at Cub Creek and 50-plus miles of single track around the W. Kerr Scott Reservoir.

“These trails have become vastly more popular than I would have ever imagined,” said Carlton. “This grant aims to create more challenging trails to broaden the network and appeal to a larger demographic.”

The expansion would be mostly adjacent to the recently completed, 1.5-mile Tornado Alley trail, for which the town spent $40,000. Most of the additions would be on county-owned land, for which the town has an option to develop these recreational features.

Improvements would be made to existing trail on the Call Farm and Perkins Place loops. A new jump line would be built on top of Barracks Hill, overlooking the park and the downtown.

The town bought the 5.42 acres on top of Barracks Hill in 2016 for possible residential use. It was purchased for $75,000 from Barium Springs Home for Children and the Children’s Hope Alliance. Carolina Rest Home operated for many years in buildings on the property, but those structures have been abandoned for about 20 years.

Nellie Archibald, the council’s liaison to parks and recreation, made the motion to approve the grant application. “I move very enthusiastically to pursue this grant,” she said while participating remotely in the meeting. “I’ve spent a lot of time down at the trails recently, and you wouldn’t believe how many people are using them. One of the most common comments I hear is that we need better signage, so I’m glad to see that part of this.”

Councilman Russ Ferree added, “If we’re ever to be a town of destination, rather than a pass-by town, it would be through these means to be known as a town of parks and recreation. I’m thrilled about this.” The motion passed unanimously.

Town Manager Ken Noland said that if the grant was awarded, construction was expected to begin in the summer of 2021.

The meeting was held inside the civic center, with council members and town staff socially distanced from one another in one room, and members of the public either watching the live video feed in another room of the building or participating remotely via Zoom. Audio and video from the meeting will be posted on the town’s website.

Other matters

The council opened and closed, without discussion, two public hearings that will be continued on May 4 at 5:30 p.m. The hearings concern a revised town sign ordinance and the requested rezoning of parcel ID 1506476 from R20 (suburban residential) to B2 (general business). Further discussion of the town’s revised sound ordinance was also tabled until the next regular meeting on May 4.

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