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Soon, public can help get park project rolling along

It seemed simple enough.

Back in February 2010, then Superior Court Clerk of Court Alice Faye Hunter told county commissioners that Louisburg businessman Edgar Owens had left them about $1 million to build a park.

He wanted it named after his parents and, if there was enough money left over, he wanted the county build a fishing hole on said park.

Since that time, though, the plans to build a county park have had more stops and starts than a caffeine-addled squirrel trying to cross Bickett Boulevard at rush hour.

I won't get into all of them, but, essentially, land was identified, then it was shot down.

Another piece of land was identified. It didn't work out.

An old golf course was identified for a site, but rather than let it go to foreclosure (which would lower the price), the county bought it through other means -- with a higher price tag.

But that's all "old" news.

More than five years after commissioners were handed a fistful of dollars and a directive, there is "some" reason for optimism.

Back in July, the county board of commissioners chose the John R. McAdams Company to develop a master plan for the development of Owens Park, which will be at the former Bull Creek Golf and Country Club in north central Franklin County.

A master plan, county staff has said, is necessary to secure a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant -- money that can be combined with the $300,000 plus the county has left to develop the park.

Besides McAdams' hire, the county has established a steering committee, a mix of park property neighbors, including one of the golf club's former owners, a member of the Tar River Land Conservancy, the director of the county's cooperative extension, a member of the parks and rec advisory board, a track coach at Louisburg College (there has been talk that the park could be used as a cross-country site), and Commissioner John May, amongst others.

Their job, county staff said, will be to help guide the process and solicit and provide input. They will not usurp any role that the parks and rec advisory board would have.

The best news, though, is that there is expected to be some public input forums by which residents and other interested parties can provide input as to what they would like to see at the park.

The goal is to have that information, staff said, in time to submit a master plan to the state by the beginning of the year in hopes of securing money for the development of the park.

With as long as it's taken to get to this point, I do understand why optimism why optimism is hard to come by.

But if this project is going to get done, the public will have a chance to be involved.

We'll keep you posted as to how you can provide input.


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