08/24/08 — Stoney Creek Park Alliance still moving forward

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Stoney Creek Park Alliance still moving forward

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on August 24, 2008 12:19 PM

The Stoney Creek Park Alliance met Thursday after two community forums earlier in the week where only a handful of people came to talk about the project.

Despite the meager turnout, Alliance members say they are still committed to creating the new city park.

The group is waiting for the design of the first phase of the park, which will include walking/jogging trails, a dog park, a nine-hole disc golf course, community gardens, a wetland education area, an amphitheater and natural children's play equipment.

The design is expected to be ready within two months and is being handled by Kimley-Horn, a Raleigh consulting and engineering firm.

While they are waiting, Alliance members said they will take their show on the road, bringing information about the project to local civic groups and contacting those who have an interest in the park.

Once the design is complete, alliance members will focus their efforts on the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant that is due in January. The grant could provide up to $500,000 to the project if awarded.

Attendance at the forums was low, with fewer than 15 people attending both nights and even fewer expressing concerns, but alliance members want the community to know they were listening.

Alliance Chairman Dr. Peter Roethling said there are some misconceptions members want to clear up -- the first being the water issue.

A lot of people, he said, can't get past the stigma that the entire park will always be under water.

But that's not true, he said. The only part of the park that will always have water in the area would be the wetlands, a natural element that the alliance is trying to preserve.

"The wetlands are an asset rather than a detriment," Roethling said.

And, he added, the alliance won't put any equipment in the wetlands area because of the preservation efforts. Instead, all of the equipment and structures will go toward the west end of the park which only floods during a significant downpour.

"People keep saying that everything we put in there is going to wash away," he said. "It's not."

He likened the situation to Herman Park.

"If you put Herman Park under 3 feet of water, what would be affected?" he asked. "Some of the sand might have to be replenished. The train would be ruined. But that's about it. It would be up and running again in no time."

Alliance member Sissy Lee-Elmore wanted to point out that the lake, a controversial aspect of the park from the beginning, is not in phase one and won't be put into the park's design until Kimley-Horn's consultants work with the Stoney Creek restoration project consultants.

"They are going to make sure everything is compatible with each other," she said.

And as for continuing to use Kimley-Horn for the project, the Alliance said the reason is simple. The firm has been there since the project started four years ago, and it would cost more to find another firm and have it start from scratch. Plus, it is easier to make sure the park and the creek work the best together when both groups of consultants are under one company, alliance members said.

A few people at the forums expressed concerns about some of the other city parks, but Roethling wanted to make something clear -- this project has been in the making for four years, while the tension with the other parks only started months ago. And the other parks don't have an alliance working for them.

"If these people care enough, they should start an alliance for the other parks," he said.

He said he wants the community to be in charge of the park project -- not city government.

In fact, that's exactly why the Alliance is moving in the direction it is -- the community expressed what it wanted to see more of in parks in the survey sent out late last year, with the top choices being trails, gardens and an amphitheater.

"The community has chosen their priorities, and we've put them all in Phase One," Ms. Lee-Elmore said.

Stoney Creek Park is not "a revolutionary concept," Roethling said.

It's a green space that "many communities are benefiting from," he said.

Wilson and Kinston already have them, and Goldsboro is just catching up, he added.

There are also economic and health values that the park brings to the city and the citizens.

Roethling said a natural place where people can gather and have fun is always a draw for a community. And, providing a free, safe place where people can walk, run or bike leaves no excuses for those who can't afford or are bored of going to the gym to exercise.

Even now, people jog or walk their dogs in the park. Some even ride their bikes, take a break on one of the benches provided by the alliance and ride again, he said.

Ms. Lee-Elmore said that the scene is much better now than the overgrown, uninviting area it was before.

"Even if we do nothing more, it is still better off than it was," she said.

Roethling said he encourages anyone who is interested in the park or has questions about it to contact him through the Parks and Recreation Department.