09/08/06 — Stoney Creek flooding makes park questionable

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Stoney Creek flooding makes park questionable

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 8, 2006 1:50 PM

On the morning Tropical Storm Ernesto dumped heavy rains on much of eastern North Carolina, Jane Thomas was among those standing along Ash Street -- watching Stoney Creek Park fill up "like a bowl," she said.

Some Goldsboro residents said the sight was "all too familiar" and "proves their stance" that the Stoney Creek Park Alliance has the wrong vision.

"I just don't understand," Ms. Thomas said. "Why should we spend our money on something we get for free every time it rains bad?"

Current plans for the park include a six-acre lake -- a feature Ms. Thomas called "a waste of money that can be spent elsewhere."

"We have enough water in that park after a good rain," she added. "They're just giving the flood a head start if they add a lake."

Paul Gooden agrees. He said the idea of improving the park is a good one, but hopes the city will decide on a different vision before construction starts.

"If you have a park you know is going to flood like that, why would you invest $2 million into it," Gooden said. "We should plant some gardens and redo the trails, maybe put a nice sign or something up. It doesn't need to be an expensive spectacle. It's not very smart to fill a flood zone with fancy things."

There is no indication at this time that tax dollars will be used for the project, however.

When Goldsboro City Council members approved restructuring the Stoney Creek Park Committee earlier this summer, their goal was to help the group gain nonprofit status. In doing so, the group became eligible to receive tax-deductible donations from organizations and private citizens.

At their meeting last month, alliance members edited a draft of a mailer that will solicit donations from the public -- and support for the project at large. Other funding possibilities include local and state grants, officials said.

Even so, in the event fundraising doesn't work out and money has to be allocated from the city's general fund to cover costs associated with construction at the park, some city officials said despite "obvious flooding issues," the plan is far from a waste of money.

Recreation and Parks director Neil Bartlett said flooding is to be expected after heavy rains fall.

"Whenever we have heavy rains, like we did with Ernesto, the park tends to flood," he said.

Still, Bartlett added, the lake shouldn't make the problem worse. In fact, it might actually help prevent excessive flooding in the park after events like Ernesto, he said. If the alliance's plan comes to fruition, he said, areas around Stoney Creek that typically flood will most likely be directed to the water feature for storage there.

"If the lake is constructed, I would hope and suspect that it would be done in such a manner to serve as a storage pond for that floodwater," he said. "Until nature has a chance to take its course."

Neighbors like Ms. Thomas, though, said they would have to see it to believe it.

"I think building that lake is a bad idea and a waste of good money," she said. "If they do it, I hope it doesn't end up flooding all of us out."