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WENDELL — Many residents don’t live close enough to a park or greenway and the town should build several more to meet demand, according to a draft of recommendations a consultant prepared for town officials this week, based in part on a survey of citizens.
In the coming years, Wendell should add a new community park on the north side of town near Wendell Middle School, officials from consulting firm McGill Associates told the board of commissioners Wednesday. Another large park could be built in the central west or central south portion of town, depending on residential growth, and two smaller neighborhood parks could be added in the east of downtown.
A splash pad should also be built downtown near J. Ashley Wall Square, McGill recommended.
The recommendations are among those McGill included in a draft of the town’s new parks and recreation master plan, which the firm is working to finalize. The recommendations are subject to change, but were informed largely by citizen input, town geographic and demographic data and national standards.
“It’s overwhelming — people want to see the (parks) system expanded,” said McGill representative Jim Ford, “People want to see more.”
Ford pointed to results of a public survey McGill conducted. The results showed nearly 86 percent of respondents wanted more park space and 98 percent favored expanding recreational opportunities.
The draft suggests building new parks in the medium to long term. In the next five years, the town should instead focus on expanding, repairing and renovating existing parks.
Those improvements include better bathrooms and expanded trails at Wendell Community Park, along with improvements to landscaping. The plan would also include adding adventure-style amenities, such as a zip line, to the park.
The study found that citizens were most interested in adding a splash pad and adventure play features to the town’s parks.
The future parks would be built strategically to fill coverage gaps and service neighborhoods that don’t have easy, walkable access to a current park. As more homes are built in the west part of town, including near Wendell Falls Parkway, the need for parks in that area will grow.
Some of the short and long-term park improvements could add as much as $7.6 million to the town’s capital expenditures over the coming years. State and federal grant funds could help cover much of those costs — and new revenues as the town grows will help fund the rest, Town Manager Mac Collins said.
“The ability to fund the improvements increases with population and diversity of land use,” Collins said. “If the growth doesn’t happen, facilities aren’t needed.”