Cary News

Downtown Holly Springs park plan approved

A broad blueprint of the town’s ambitious downtown park has emerged, but town officials haven’t decided how or when to fund a transformation of the woods behind Holly Springs United Methodist Church.

The master plan, presented at a public meeting last week, includes a village green and farmers market, an orchard, botanical gardens, an “adventure play area,” a boardwalk and an assortment of buildings for the 18-acre Mims property, which would remain largely forested.

“It’s a tremendous landscape, a tremendous opportunity,” said Matt Hayes, a planner with the consultant Alta-Greenways, at a Holly Springs Town Council meeting last week.

Town residents and staff have shaped the vision of the park since last summer, drafting and discarding plans for nature labs, treehouses and zip lines along the way.

The council was largely receptive to the overarching plan, though council members Chet VanFossen and Linda Hunt Williams said they’d like to see an amphitheater in the plans.

“I just think we’re missing the mark by not being able to get people to come downtown to spend money ... for an event” at the park, VanFossen said.

The town’s consultant suggested a compromise – the half-acre village green could host bands and other acts. The council wants to consider both options, and directed the consultant to draft plans for an amphitheater.

Councilwoman Cheri Lee said the plan’s strength is variety. “There’s something for everybody. It’s great,” she said.

The council didn’t vote on the master plan last week, but could do so in a few weeks or months. After that, the project faces a greater challenge: finding funding. The town may soon raise taxes to provide about $9 million for parks, but town leaders haven’t set aside any of that money for the downtown park.

Early budget documents estimate a $5 million price tag for the downtown park project. The council still could decide to pursue the project with the extra tax money, though to do so would require a reshuffling of town staff’s plans.

For now, said Finance Director Drew Holland, the park is “just a concept that’s not funded.”