County ponders options for Parker Meadows rec. park

At Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Macon County Board of County Commissioners, board members gave the go ahead to take the first step toward making the Parker Meadows Recreational Park a reality. Commissioners voted unanimously to begin the permit process for the beginning phase of the project. After the permits have been acquired, the county will have up to a year to begin the actual construction of the park.

County recreation director Seth Adams and county planner Matt Mason presented a preliminary proposal for the park which included plans for a recreation park that would satisfy the county’s obligation of the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant. In addition, they presented three other proposed options with each option building upon the other up to a full scale recreation complex for the board’s consideration. According to Adams, the proposed costs of each option were projected after significant research and cost estimates had been obtained from the various contractors that would be needed to complete the project.

The first proposed phase fulfills the requirements on the part of Macon County to satisfy the PARTF grant obligation. This proposal would include two adult ball fields with dugouts, soccer field, playground, shelter with bathrooms, 60 space parking area, 2200’ walking trail and the renovation of the original clubhouse on the property. This basic park is estimated to cost $623,315 of which the county would pay $123,315 after deducting the $500,000 in grant funds.

Adams and Mason presented three other options for the park, each option building on the basic obligation park. According to Adams, option one would be a more user friendly option and would include the grant obligation plus an access road to the parking lot, central building with bathrooms, concessions & scoring and lighting for two fields. Total cost for this option would be $1,104,815 with the county paying for $604,815 after deducting the grant funds.

Option two expands on the first option with two additional adult fields with dugouts, field lighting, 7,000 square feet of multi-use courts and 200 space parking area. This second option would cost the county $1,248,815 after deducting the PARTF funds. The additional fields and expanded parking lot of this park option would help attract additional baseball and softball tournaments to Macon County.

The third option would enable Macon County to have a complete recreational complex allowing the county to host baseball and softball tournaments for all ages. The proposed complex would include option two plus three 220’ youth fields, one 150’ youth field, central building with bathrooms, concessions & scoring, two parking areas & completion of access road and construction of a maintenance building. Such a recreational complex would cost a total of $2,989,315 with the county paying for $2,489,315 of the project.

Construction of such a complex could possibly have a significant economic impact on the county as it would attract large youth and adult baseball and softball tournaments. Local businesses would benefit from the tournaments as people would be spending additional money on food, lodging and shopping while visiting the area. In addition, the county could also see profits from the park’s concessions stands as well as from tournament fees. Currently, the closest recreational complex that can host such large tournaments is in Morganton.

Since the Parker Meadows project is such an expensive undertaking for the county, commissioners requested that Adams compile figures for projected annual costs to operate the recreation complex, including such expenses as utilities and ongoing maintenance costs. In addition, Adams told the board that the park will need a site supervisor, preferably a green specialist with a turf management degree, and two additional full-time employees. Several part-time employees will also be needed to provide ongoing mowing and weed eating of the park and fields. Additional costs of the project which also needed to be included in final proposal are archeological, design and landscape development fees. Equipment needed to maintain the park would also cost the county an estimated $60,000. Budgeting for the projected construction costs as well as the ongoing operating costs of the park project is another factor the board will have to consider.

Whether commissioners decide to construct the basic park or the more expansive recreational complex, the future Parker Meadows Recreation Park will help to provide much needed ball fields for Macon County residents. An additional benefit for residents is that both the Recreation Park and Industrial Park fields are located in flood plains and when they have experienced flooding, the Parker Meadows property remained dry. Depending on when commissioners make their final decision, the park could be completed in a year giving Macon County a recreation park that can be enjoyed by residents of all ages with a variety of recreational needs.