05/27/08 — Lake now low on list for Stoney Creek Park

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Lake now low on list for Stoney Creek Park

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on May 27, 2008 2:21 PM

The biggest, and most controversial, item proposed for Stoney Creek Park, a lake, is not included in the latest set of plans.

The public doesn't seem to see it as a top priority, Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Director Sonya Shaw said.

The Parks and Recreation Department recently conducted a survey of what Goldsboro citizens would like to see more of in parks and recreational facilities, and in December, the results came rolling in.

The No. 1 item on the list overall was walking trails, followed by a fishing area at a close second and a lake/pond feature in third.

The Stoney Creek Park Alliance is developing the park in several planning phases. At this point, the first phase does not include the lake.

"The alliance realized they were in agreement with the majority of survey recipients that ranked walking trails as the highest nature/family-oriented activity desired of residents. Coming in close behind were picnic shelters, amphitheater and gardens," Mrs. Shaw said.

The alliance is looking into a picnic shelter for the area, but would like to have something a little more nature-oriented and different than typical shelters.

Chairman Dr. Peter Roethling said he and other alliance members are trying to make the park the best it can be.

"Since the alliance presented a green space concept to the community in 2006, we have spent some time determining the best direction to make the concept a reality. The lake feature initially garnered the majority of attention, even though it was only one of the possibilities considered for the park," Roethling said. "This tended to overshadow the true purpose and nature of Stoney Creek Park's development -- to create a natural outdoor environment that offers the community a number of recreational activities otherwise not available in the city."

Roethling said that in the beginning, the alliance explored the lake feature but deferred including it in the present plans due to "financial and technical challenges of the lake, in addition to ongoing questions by the community."

Another reason the lake isn't included in the first phase is time.

Mrs. Shaw said that more research needs to be done on the water feature and whether it should be a lake used for fishing or a retention pond for holding additional water during heavy rains.

The lake isn't out of the question, though, Mrs. Shaw and alliance members say. It is just on hold.

The phasing also looks good in the eyes of those deciding who receives a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, which might bring $500,000 to Stoney Creek Park, Mrs. Shaw added.

"Hopefully, in the future when enough information has been gathered about this area of the project, the proper water feature will become a part of a later phase of development," she said. "The highest ranking water-related opportunities desired by residents included a fishing area, lake/pond feature and boat/canoe rentals. A majority of these features, but not all, were included in the original park plans."

More than 1,220 people responded to the survey, and nearly 73 percent of the respondents live inside the city limits.

The cost associated with the implementation of a lake feature in the future won't be an overwhelming obstacle, Mrs. Shaw said -- the alliance simply feels it can accomplish more with items that don't require as much money or time.

The Stoney Creek restoration project also needs to be completed so that planners can pinpoint where the creek will run.

"I don't think the costs had anything to do with it as we are just getting to the point of being able to pull together costs of Phase 1 of the project, but I do know that the alliance definitely wants public support of the park and wants to include those features mostly requested by the public," she said.

Alliance members want to make Stoney Creek Park a more usable place sooner.

"Currently, the alliance is considering a number of very feasible and lower-cost elements that can draw a healthy amount and variety of people into the park," Roethling said.

Mrs. Shaw agrees.

"I believe the alliance is progressing in the right direction," she said. "Since the alliance received feedback from the public over the past year, the group took several steps back to really access the amenities of the park."

For now, a dog park, a popular item in other area cities, is planned for the park. There will be areas for both large and small dogs and an unleashed area.

Walking paths, a children's interpretive area, disc golf and Spanish oak tree identification will also be pieces of the first part of the park plan, along with restroom facilities, landscaping and fencing.

All of these are projects that don't include such a hefty undertaking, both physically and financially, committee members said.

The alliance also wants to preserve the natural beauty of the wetland area, which is deemed a protected area by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The park will have a wetland identification area where people can learn and see what a wetland is comprised of and what organisms it commonly features. The plan is to have a bridge over the wetlands to serve as a viewing area.

Alliance members decided to complete the project in phases to help ensure that smaller projects are done correctly and in the right order.

The alliance is currently working with Kimley-Horn to help lay out where each activity or facility should go inside the park. Once those designers have time to lay out all of the amenities in the first phase, they will come back to the alliance with an established plan and advice aimed toward the best way to approach the projects in a timely manner.

Kimley-Horn representatives are expected to return to the alliance within 60 days with a preliminary layout of the first phase of the park plan.

"In the next few months, the Stoney Creek Park Alliance will turn to the community for its input and involvement in moving the project forward," Roethling said.

The alliance will hold public forums on the park in July and August. Dates, times and locations have not yet been determined.

"The success of the park and its potential to improve the quality of life in Goldsboro depends on the ability of individuals, groups and businesses to contribute whatever efforts and resources are at their disposal," Roethling added.

Community groups wishing to help complete some of these early projects may contact the alliance through the Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Department at 739-7480.

The alliance has also established a wish list for items needed in the park. Those who donate items or money for items will be recognized with a plaque on the item once its in the park.