Wake County could install tree houses to create a “tree top trail” at Harris Lake Park south of Holly Springs.
Planners like the idea of a skateboarding trail along a ridge at North Wake Landfill District Park in North Raleigh.
And residents are begging for water fountains along the American Tobacco Trail between Cary and Durham in western Wake, where free drinking water is lacking along the six-mile greenway.
County leaders have dozens of ideas for renovating Wake parks at an estimated cost of $49 million, but no way of funding them.
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County commissioners met Monday to review a list of park upgrades recommended by residents who responded to digital surveys and attended public forums about what they want to see in Wake’s Park Master Plan. Residents and planners identified 111 potential projects across eight parks, including Blue Jay Point on Falls Lake, Crowder District Park on Ten-Ten Road near Apex, Historic Oak View off Poole Road in east Raleigh and Yates Mill on Lake Wheeler Road just south of Raleigh.
Wake leaders should consider improving amenities because more people are using the parks, according to county staff. More than 1.2 million people visited county parks last year, up 10 percent from 2015. Shelter rentals jumped 24 percent, and participation in educational projects rose 8 percent.
Commissioners’ chairman Sig Hutchinson said the board should consider Wake’s reputation outside North Carolina as it goes through the budgeting process.
“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that our brand is recreation,” Hutchinson said.
Commissioners said they want to wait until county staff works with the consultant, who they’re paying $120,000, to prioritize the proposed renovations before deciding which projects to pay for and how to pay for them. It’s unclear how long that will take.
Commissioner Greg Ford said he wants county staff to reach out to city and town governments to see if they’re working on big projects and could use financial assistance. When it comes to funding, commissioners said they generally favor paying for the projects through a bond referendum.
“Not only will (park projects) be enjoyed by current taxpayers, but also those who will move into the area or age into taxpayers in the future,” Commissioner John Burns said. “Bonds allow for borrowing at the lowest possible rate and allows future taxpayers to help pay for assets they will use. We shouldn’t go into debt for short-term gain, but I support bonds to build things ... that will be used by multiple generations of taxpayers.”
Wake staff can’t craft a capital plan until commissioners decide which projects to prioritize, said Johnna Rogers, deputy county manager.
“Anything you’re going to ask the voters for, you’re going to need a lot more specificity than this,” Rogers told commissioners.
Proposed Wake park renovations
Here are some of the upgrades recommended by residents who responded to digital surveys and attended public forums about what they want to see in Wake’s Park Master Plan:
American Tobacco Trail: water fountains, restrooms and parking
Blue Jay Point: new pavilion, easier trail access to the lake, improvements to the nature playground
Crowder District Park: new back deck for the park center, new nature playground and new boardwalks
Harris Lake: new kayak launch point, youth disc golf course, new restrooms
Historic Oak View: themed playground, new exhibits at the farmhouse, new trail
Yates Mill: improved access to the water’s edge, expanded boardwalk along the Creekside Trail, new kayak launch point
Lake Crabtree: new park center, new sidewalk to Aviation Parkway, more parking
North Wake Landfill: top-of-the-hill trail, themed playground, skateboarding trail