Alternative rec site offered

Land next to Durant park is proposed for a sports complex as Horseshoe alternative

Staff WriterOctober 25, 2006 

— Fifteen city-owned acres next to North Raleigh's Durant Nature Park might be the place to put a gymnasium and basketball courts.

So said the City Council's public works committee, which voted 2-1 on Tuesday to ask the full council to consider the property for recreation facilities. It also asked the council to let it consider other locations in north and northeast Raleigh.

The discussion comes as the council looks at alternatives to Horseshoe Farm Park, 146 acres off U.S. 401 in northeast Raleigh. This summer, the city's parks, recreation and greenway advisory board endorsed a master plan for a nature-focused park on the site but added a recreation center and basketball courts.

Those additions angered dozens of residents who want a nature-based park, with an environmental education and arts center, river launch, trails, open spaces and picnic areas, but no gym or basketball courts. Several nature park supporters spoke at the meeting Tuesday.

The council is looking for alternative locations for the center and courts before it decides what to do at Horseshoe Farm Park.

The city bought the 15 acres in 1999 for about $180,000, mostly with money from the city's water and sewer fees, to house an operation center for the public utilities department.

The city uses another location for the utilities operations center in Wake Forest, which has since merged its utilities system with the city. But water and sewer fee funds can be used only for public utilities projects. So the city would have to buy the property from the public utilities department to use it for parks.

Committee members Jessie Taliaferro and Tommy Craven voted to ask the council to buy the property and consider it for so-called active recreation.

Russ Stephenson voted against buying the property because he said he wanted a broader discussion. He supported asking the council to look at other locations.

At his request, the committee agreed to discuss only Durant Nature Park on Tuesday because the item on the committee's agenda did not list other potential sites.

"It's to protect people who were not expecting discussion outside of Durant and keep the discussion from getting narrowly focused" on Durant and the North Wake Landfill, Stephenson said.

The landfill, across Durant Road, is proposed to become a park and elementary school site when it closes. City staff members were prepared to discuss the landfill because of its proximity to Durant and the plans for a park there.

The request stymied some discussion at the meeting Tuesday. All the committee members, along with speakers in the audience, wanted to talk about other sites.

But Stephenson, citing the contentious planning process for Horseshoe Farm Park, said it was the right thing to do.

"The overriding problem is the perception that it is being manipulated and that some people are not playing by the rules," he said. "It's just a bad direction to go in."

Staff writer Sarah Lindenfeld Hall can be reached at 829-8983 or slindenf@newsobserver.com.

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