Wendell Falls could become a gift that keeps giving to the town, if only commissioners would let it.
Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Polaski told commissioners last week that Newland Communities, the development company handling Wendell Falls, was willing to help the town fix up multipurpose fields at Lake Myra Elementary school.
But commissioners wanted Polaski to focus on expansion plans at Wendell Community Park before moving on to another project.
“I’m thrilled to hear the Newland folks are willing to work with us (but) I want us to work where we are,” commissioner Ginna Gray said at the board meeting.
Commissioners grilled Polaski on plans to improve parks and rec facilities and programming at the meeting on Sept. 22. He suggested several plans for Wendell Park, but told commissioners the only way the town could afford to use the fields they previously used at Lake Myra Elementary would be with help or patience.
“It would take a lot of work to get those (fields) back in shape to use (them),” he said. “It’s not just grass, (there are) rooted trees that need to come out. It would be a year and half before they were in any kind of playing shape (if we did it on our own).”
Polaski said Newland has the equipment to level the fields and was willing to help, if the town would like to pursue improvements at both facilities at once.
Commissioners were more interested in programming that could start immediately, grants that could be applied for in the near future and what projects could be done at Wendell Park.
Polaski had several ideas for new parks and rec projects. He suggested a fitness trail along the town’s walking trail, which could cost between $6,000 to $9,000 depending on which version the town wanted.
It would be an install kit, meaning town staff could install exercise stations along the trail. It wouldn’t require the manufacturer to construct anything.
Making a timeline for grants
Polaski also took project ideas from the town’s master plan and mapped out when those things could happen.
A dog park, a frisbee golf course and making the parks accessible to the disabled were some large projects Polaski said he thinks the town could create with the help of a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant from the state, but the town would probably not be ready to apply by the January deadline.
“(The application) takes a lot of time,” Polaski said. “Next year, absolutely. This year, we would be pressed.”
Commissioners however, wanted to get Wendell’s name in the mix and suggested putting a smaller application together to learn more about the process and see if there was a lesson to take away from this year.
“I would hate to throw something together and send it down there and get rejected,” Polaski said. “(They’re) not really interested in smaller projects, they like bigger projects.”
Mayor Tim Hinnant asked Polaski to submit a PARTF grant anyway.
Waiting until next year to apply for a larger grant would also allow the town time to see if they would be able to match the funds, which is a requirement for the grant.
“We tend to sit around here and apply for things we can’t match and I’m ready to get off the pot,” Gray said.
Polaski, who successfully earned a PARTF grant in his previous job in Farmville, reminded commissioners they would have three years to match funds.