PENDER COUNTY — Pender County is seeking public input ahead of creating a public park about 3 miles north of Burgaw on U.S. 117.
Community members are invited to offer feedback between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Pender County Administrative Building, 805 S. Walker St in Burgaw.
Citing the county’s population growth — at a rate of 15% since 2010 — as a main incentive to preserve green space, Pender County assistant county manager Doug Shipley said the 60-acre Central Pender Park will be double the size of Burgaw’s 27-acre Pender Memorial Park, about 4 miles from the site.
“This is not the only thing we’re looking at, but it’s one of the higher needs,” Shipley said. “In that part of the county, there is an outdated park that is very small and is in need of some help.”
Pender Memorial’s usage is at its max capacity, as athletic teams are sharing space, including soccer and football teams practicing on baseball outfields.
While plans are in the preliminary stage and exact site layout not yet known, Shipley confirmed there will be multipurpose fields, playgrounds, picnic shelters, restrooms and walking trails incorporated into its design. The build-out of a new facility would occur in phases.
“We, at this time, don’t have any desire to get rid of the existing park,” Shipley said. “Once it’s fully built out, we still see the need for it right there in the Town of Burgaw.”
A final price for the construction of Central Pender Park has not yet been released.
“Between supply chain issues and cost of construction, I would hate to put a number on that right now,” Shipley said.
Shipley said the county is applying for a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant. If awarded, it could receive up to $500,000 and must provide a 50% local match. The grant application is due May 2 and recipients will be announced in the fall.
The county began searching for a tract of land for a new park in 2018. It purchased 60 acres from Robert Morton for $330,000, following unanimous approval from the board of commissioners Oct. 5, 2020. During that meeting, Shipley told commissioners the cost to rehabilitate a portion of the fields located at Pender Memorial Park and Hampstead Kiwanis would equal roughly $690,000.
“The purchase of the property is necessary to enlarge activity fields on the western side of the county,” commissioner Jacqueline Newton said at the 2020 meeting. “The parks here in Burgaw are overused, and we have to do extreme maintenance to refurbish those fields at a considerable cost.”
Central Pender Park is just one piece of Pender County Parks and Recreation’s updated master plan. In July 2021, Pender County Board of Commissioners awarded a $47,200 contract to Shallotte-based consultants McGill & Associates to develop a 10-year strategy for county parks. McGill recently created Onslow County’s Parks and Recreation master plan and is assisting with Brunswick County’s comprehensive plan.
The last time the county implemented a long-term vision was in June 2010. The comprehensive outlook will evaluate existing facilities and amenities and project priorities for future planning.
Last summer, county parks and rec hosted nine community input meetings and solicited survey responses. More than 700 participated in the process, and input is being incorporated in the final version of the master plan.
Based on feedback, Shipley said the most-requested amenities were ballfields, green space, multi-use paths and trails.
The commissioners will review the final master plan proposal in March or early April.
In addition to Memorial Park, Pender County currently owns and maintains the 57-acre Hampstead Kiwanis park, 31-acre Millers Pond Park — a passive green space in Rocky Point — and the 12-acre Penderlea Community Park. It also maintains Holly Shelter Shooting Range, owned by N.C. Wildlife Federation, along with other ancillary facilities.
An expansion to Hampstead Kiwanis Park, 586 Sloop Rd. in Hampstead is also included in the master plan and a public input meeting will be held at the park on Mar. 10, between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
“We’ve been working toward expansion for a long, long time,” Shipley said. “We need public input; as many people to be involved and give their opinions, as possible.”
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