Eastern Wake: Opinion

Editorial: Park land would be nice, but cost matters

The town of Wendell is in private talks with at least one funding organization to work out a plan that might help enlarge Wendell Park by about 40 acres.

The town board met in closed session late last month with a representative of the Conservation Trust to discuss possible funding opportunities for the purchase of land that sits between Wendell Falls Parkway and the existing town park.

It’s an exciting opportunity for the town if it can be done at little to no expense to the town. Parks and Recreation is arguably one of the most valued services the town provides. People have been putting their children in ball leagues in Wendell for years and the Wendell Park facility has allowed the town to bring tournaments here, giving a small boost to the town’s tourism budget.

And the Parks and Recreation Department, in recent years, has responded to the changing needs of the community by diversifying its offerings. People can walk nature trails, take dance and exercise classes. They can play disc golf and they can bring their dog to the park for some unfettered play time.

Expanding the park would clearly allow the town to provide more services or to increase the availability of the services it now provides.

There is one important caveat here, however, and commissioners should be mindful of it. If the town finds itself having to fund the purchase of the land on its own, then this isn’t a good idea.

The bottom line in Wendell just won’t allow it, particularly in light of the increasing manpower needs many other departments within town government have. Police haven’t had a new position funded in several years and, in fact, have been forced to leave vacant positions open. And yet, they are now required to provide police protection from the Little River all the way to the end of Wendell Falls Parkway at the Knightdale Bypass.

And, the towns planning department has asked for more help. As more homes are built in Wendell and the town continues its recovery from the recession, all signs point to home-building and subdivision creation at a fever pitch. The town has but three people to oversee all that.

The town’s public works department is in the same boat. As the town grows and more people use the streets and sidewalks, more people are needed to keep the town looking like we all want it to: clean and inviting. But the town’s recent response to increasing demands for service has been to cut back on those services, not to add employees and buy equipment to get the job done properly.

As budget season gets underway, town officials must keep those needs in mind. As nice as new park land might be, there are other, more pressing needs, if the money to buy the park land is going to have to come from the town’s own checkbook.