As the inventory of future park land in Clayton continues to grow, another Johnston County town is eyeing its share of the forest.
The Town of Archer Lodge, whose leaders have committed to growing the town’s recreation options, might buy dozens of acres for sports fields, walking trails and multipurpose space.
The Town Council agreed on Monday to seek state funds to help purchase the land. Mayor Mike Gordon said the town is looking at numerous tracts but is especially interested in about 28 acres next to Archer Lodge Middle School on Wendell Road.
Deed records show that Laura Ann Bridges and Larue Rattelade own a 27.37-acre tract just south of the middle school. The land has a tax value of about $154,500.
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Gordon said the town would hope to acquire that land for about $495,000, with a state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant paying half the cost.
In responding to multiple town surveys in recent years, Archer Lodge residents have asked for more parks and recreation space. The Archer Lodge Community Center, an independent nonprofit, offers recreation programs in the community but is strapped for space on the 4.5 acres it owns on Buffalo Road.
Town Councilman Clyde Castleberry said the volunteers who run the community center have done a great job over the years. That includes growing a youth baseball team with fewer than a dozen kids into a multi-sport endeavor, with semiannual youth soccer leagues that draw more than 230 kids.
Now, Castleberry said, it’s time to expand what the town offers. “When a kid gets to be 10 years old, that’s it,” he said of local offerings. “People are having to carry their kid from here to somewhere else, including myself, to play ball. We need to do something to keep our kids here.”
Along with the grant application, the town will hire a landscape architect to create a recreation master plan, and the council will appoint a Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
The state’s Parks and Recreation Trust Fund awards dollar-for-dollar matching grants to local governments planning park projects across North Carolina. Last year, the Division of Parks and Recreation awarded more than $15.4 million from the fund to local governments, which added a combined $28.7 million to the park projects.
In July, the state awarded $350,000 from the fund to the Partnership to Build a Miracle, a Smithfield-based group that is raising money for a baseball field and playground for children of all abilities.
Clayton’s park land
Archer Lodge is about seven miles northeast of Clayton, where town leaders continue to spend on parks. The town, which dedicated the 66-acre East Clayton Community Park last November, is expanding the reach of its greenways and closing two deals to buy additional 100 acres of future park space on the north and south sides of town.
Last month, the town purchased 67 acres for $1.2 million on Little Creek Church Road from The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit that worked between town leaders and the property owner, the Devra Massey Trust. Town Manager Steve Biggs has said the town will likely hire a consultant to develop a master plan after seeking feedback from residents and other stakeholders on how to use the land.
The town is also waiting to buy 39 acres on Covered Bridge Road, pending an environmental agreement with the state. The land adjoins 80 additional acres the town already owns. Plans for the Covered Bridge Road properties include a nature park along the Neuse River.
In other business, Archer Lodge leaders appointed Mark Jackson to replace outgoing Councilman Jeff Barnes, who stepped down in July because of an illness.
Jackson, 46, has lived in Archer Lodge for about 20 years. In the mid-2000s, he was part of the committee that led the effort to incorporate the town.
Jackson served in the U.S. Army for 26 years before retiring last year. He said he’s kept an eye on the town’s proceedings since it won incorporation in 2009. Now, he said, he’s ready to “get to work.”
“I want the opportunity to serve,” he said. “I love Archer Lodge. If I didn’t, I would have moved a long time ago.”
Jackson will serve the remainder of Barnes’ term, which expires in 2015.