HOLLY SPRINGS — Councilman Jimmy Cobb gestured like a conductor over a colorful map of 18 acres on the edge of downtown. The forested land that's home to one of the town's namesake springs presents a rare opportunity, he said.
Scattered across the topography were plans for a proposed centerpiece park, including zip lines, treehouses, nature labs and brick plazas. As about 50 town residents came and went, Cobb helped them arrange cut-out illustrations of the plans and photograph their personal blueprints.
"How many towns have, right in the center of town, 18 acres of property that ... that they can take and do a blueprint on?" he asked. "It's an awesome piece of property (and) we've got a chance to leave a mark forever."
The town bought the parcel last summer for $550,000. The wooded land and its historic springs were part of a 180-acre estate that surrounded the circa-1840 Leslie-Alford-Mims House whose image is the town's logo.
Since the purchase, town residents, staff and elected officials have drafted plans for a "crown jewel" park on the site. They presented three rough concepts for the park Wednesday: an ecological learning facility, a forested adventure center and a relaxing town green.
The eco-centric option features a learning laboratory on a stream, a nature lab and an outdoor classroom; the village green includes a wintertime ice rink and a large brick-and-grass promenade; and the adventure center map is dotted by treehouses, trails and a zip line.
Ultimately, the park could include features of all three. And in any case, the town plans to keep the site largely wooded. Earlier ideas for a section of commercial or office space are on the backburner but remain a possibility.
"This is so wide open right now. There's plenty of time for feedback," said Glenn Myrto, who lives nearby and serves on the park planning committee. "I want it to be something that everyone can come and enjoy and relax."
Ken Macior, a resident of a nearby neighborhood, said he and his family want treehouses and outdoor fun. And a new park, he said, could make the town more attractive to new businesses and residents. "This park is going to have a huge impact on how Holly Springs is viewed by the outside world," he said at the workshop. "It's about natural beauty, it's about bringing the community together ... I love this, I absolutely love this."
The council could consider the plans early this summer. They'll weigh staff and committee recommendations, along with budget figures, as they determine the final shape of the planned park. They also will decide whether and when to build the park.
So far, Holly Springs has spent $50,000 and employed consultant Alta/Greenways to plan the area. The final budget for the project remains undecided.
"There's not a dollar figure floating around," Cobb said.
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or Twitter.com/KenneyOnCary