On Monday the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved both the sale of land in Ogden Park and to use the money made in that sale to fund the Ogden Skatepark and a new walking trail.
The undeveloped land, about 10.62 acres, is being sold to the North Carolina Department of Transportation for the completion of the Military Cutoff extension (10.18 acres for right of way, .44 for easements) for $502,580. The strip of land is located in the middle of Ogden Park between the soccer and baseball fields, and the completion of the road extension will split the park in two parcels, with 65.34 acres on one side and 62.97 acres on the other. The road itself, however, will not be on the same level as the park and field areas.
“It seems a little scary that it’s going to go in the middle of our park, but the way the road is going to go, it’s going to run perpendicular to Ogden Park Drive, and it’s going to sit about 20 to 25 feet above our roadway,” said Tara Duckworth, the New Hanover County Parks and Recreation director. “Though it’ll bisect the park, it won’t ultimately interfere with any of the use at the park.”
Construction on the extension is expected to start in 2017 and take about two years.
Commissioners also approved for that money to go toward the completion of Phase 2 of the Ogden Skatepark (funding for Phase 1 was included in the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget in the amount of $265,000) and a new capital project, a walking trail in Ogden Park.
“We hear from everyone that connectivity and walking and being able to get out and enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of our parks is something that’s high on everybody’s list,” said Duckworth.
According to Duckworth, the trail would be 10 feet wide and made of asphalt and would be similar to the one in Hugh MacRae Park. The trail would be multi-purpose and open to joggers, cyclists, and skateboarders as well as walkers. Duckworth said it could also benefit the parents and others who have to bring their kids to the park for sports practices.
“This is a great opportunity to get the parents out of the car … and get some exercise themselves,” said Duckworth.
Though she approved the sale of the land, Chairwoman Beth Dawson was skeptical of approving the money for these specific projects and instead wanted to put the money into a general fund balance.
“Have we thought about looking and waiting until the master plan update is complete?” Dawson said, referring to the plan the parks and recreation department completes every 10 years for future capital projects. “Maybe a skateboard park is not the top of the priority list right now.”
County Manager Chris Coudriet said that because the land sold was in Ogden, he wanted to keep the money in the area and instructed his staff accordingly.
“I guess you could say I limited staff to imagining how to reinvest those dollars into Ogden Park,” Coudriet said.
Vice Chair Jonathan Barfield Jr., who said he used to skateboard as a young boy growing up in Wilmington, agreed.
“I think it’s a great idea to take the resources you’re going to get and reinvest that into the park as opposed to using them some other place,” Barfield said.
Duckworth said the skate park was a part of the 2006 master plan and would be included in the 2016 one along with the new trail.
While the motion to approve the sale of the land passed unanimously, Dawson dissented on the resolution to put that money toward the skate park and trail.
The board also unanimously approved the transfer of $60,783 worth of donations to the budget for the skate park, which is being hailed by many as a good example of a public – private partnership for the good of the community. Earlier this month, the project received widespread attention when legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk and his foundation awarded the Ogden Skatepark its highest grant amount of $25,000. Duckworth said they had the number one application in the nation for the grant.
According to Duckworth, the project has also received $65,000 worth of in-kind donations from local businesses and citizens.