City plans to improve parks


By Philip Sayblack
Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Another one of Rocky Mount's parks may soon receive some much-needed improvements.

The Rocky Mount City Council will consider a budget ordinance amendment during its 7 p.m. meeting tonight that will place $158,000 in the city's General Capital Fund for planned improvements to Hornbeam Park. The 10.5-acre park at 150 Cunningham Drive has a lighted softball field, little league baseball field and tennis courts. It also boasts a playground, picnic shelter and restrooms.

Parks and Recreation Director Kelvin Yarrell said the department has a focused view of how the money would be used to improve the park.

“We are looking at using the money to place a new playground where the tennis courts are,” Yarrell said. “There hasn’t been play on those courts in years, and they are in bad condition.”

He added before any work will begin on the proposed playground, the department will hold a series of meetings with the public to discuss the plan and get feedback on the idea. He said the decision on the meeting dates will be made pending the city council’s approval of the funding.

Yarrell said if the money is approved and the public approves the planned improvements, the park’s current playground — one of the city’s oldest playgrounds — will be removed and work will be done to make the vacant spot “an open, grassy area.” He stressed improvements also have been made in recent months to the park’s restroom facilities and parking lot and that no work is planned on the park’s athletic facilities.

Yarrell added if the playground is installed, the tennis courts will not be replaced.

Hornbeam Park is just one of the city’s parks that the department is hoping to improve this year. The department applied for a 2016 Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant last month for improvements to Holly Street Park. Yarrell said the $250,000 grant is funded through the National Park Service and requires a local match of $338,500.

He said the city’s local match for the grant was so high because the federally funded Land and Water Conservation Fund provides a maximum of $250,000 in the grant. Yarrell added the city’s Parks and Recreation department had more items planned for Holly Street park’s renovation than the fund’s 50/50 match would provide for, so it had to increase its local match beyond that 50/50 mark, stressing the local match was pre-budgeted and would not affect taxpayers.

Yarrell said improving both Hornbeam Park and Holly Street Park is integral to the city’s appeal.

“It is our goal to improve both parks this year,” Yarrell said. “If the improvements proposed for both parks happen, they will potentially spur growth in terms of population and economy for their surrounding neighborhoods.”