Southwest Wake News

Fuquay-Varina approves $7 million parks plan

Young children could soon have somewhere to go to splash around in the hotter months, but those wanting a skate park or public swimming pool will have to wait for them to be brought up again as part the town’s plans.

The Fuquay-Varina Board of Town Commissioners approved a five-year master plan Oct. 21 for its Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department, making a splash pad the town’s top priority and doing away with plans for a skate park and aquatics center.

The $7 million plan includes potential plans for playground updates at several parks, upgrades to ball fields and the construction of an outdoor basketball court. The most expensive project is a $5 million cultural arts center, which a separate town committee has been researching.

A town survey, with 757 respondants, found residents were most in favor of playground upgrades and more options for youth sports.

Splash pads, long a fixture of amusement parks, are becoming more common in city parks. Children play on a rubber surface where water shoots out of the ground or tumbles down gently from towers and hoops.

This would be the first splash pad in Fuquay-Varina. Cary has one in Waverly Place, and a half dozen more are scattered throughout the rest of the Triangle.

“It’s something that’s been talked about for years,” commissioner Jason Wunch said, who said the town should prioritize finding a location for the splash park.

The proposal has come up off and on for years, only to get shot down by town officials. A few years ago, commissioner William Harris was the only supporter.

But now, as the town is faced with continuing growth and more youth – a third of the population is 19 or younger – Harris has gone from lone supporter to part of a unanimous consensus for completing the $250,000 splash pad as early as next year.

He was still a lone voice on the broader parks plan, though. Harris was the only commissioner to vote against the master plan, even though it prioritized the splash pad, the project he has fought for.

Harris didn’t like the motion by Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Adcock to remove the skate park and public pool from the plan. He said there is no sense in completely disregarding those projects in the master plan, since the board could still vote at a later date not to build them.

“I think we need to keep it in the plan, at least,” Harris said. “And then as we move forward, if it becomes a fiscal issue, we can address that.”

But none of the other commissioners agreed. They opposed the costs of building a pool, which the town estimates would cost millions of dollars to build and thousands more to staff and maintain. The skate park price estimate also surprised some officials.

“What was it, $400,000? I think that’s ridiculous,” Mayor John Byrne said. “That’s way too much money.”

Commissioner Blake Massengill said several constituents had told him specifically that they didn’t want the town to build a skate park.

But Town Manager Adam Mitchell and parks department Director Jonathan Cox said they heard from several residents requesting a skate park. Mitchell asked the board not to get too caught up on price tags. They weren’t approving the actual projects, just plans to look into building the projects.

Adcock, however, said he only wanted to approve ideas the board wholeheartedly supported.

In addition to the skate park, Adcock also argued against the multi-million-dollar aquatic center. He said many Fuquay-Varina residents already belong to private pools scattered around town in subdivisions.

But Harris urged the board to remember that not everyone can afford membership at a private pool. Adcock said he does “think it’s a shame that every kid doesn’t have access to one,” but that the costs of building and maintaining such a facility outweigh the social benefits.

“I just believe there are better ways to spend our funds,” Adcock said.