As Harrisburg faces continuing population growth, town officials are trying to provide sufficient recreational programs and parks for the burgeoning community.
Harrisburg Town Administrator Michele Reapsmith said the town is growing rapidly, pointing to estimates that project that the town's population has doubled since the last census. That census reported 4,493 people living in Harrisburg in 2000.
"The Parks and Rec Department is inadequate for the recreational needs of the citizens we have now," Reapsmith said.
The town is working on a parks and recreation master plan, a 20-year plan to help determine the future of Harrisburg parks. The plan dovetails with the land-use plan being developed for a 26.5-square-mile area in Harrisburg by county and town planners. The land-use plan will not only outline areas of future development but also the placement of potential parks and greenways.
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The town will distribute surveys in the coming weeks to solicit feedback about what Harrisburg residents would like to see in local parks and where they'd like to see them. A committee will analyze responses and incorporate them into the master plan.
The plan should be completed by the end of September, said Dan Sullivan, Harrisburg's director of parks and recreation.
The town launched its parks and recreation department in January 2009 when the Harrisburg Youth Association came under the umbrella of the town. Before the town created the department, youth athletics and town events were organized by volunteers or contractors.
Sullivan joined the parks and recreation department in March, replacing Foster Hughes as the department's director. The town recently installed a trailer at Stallings Road Park to serve as the department's temporary headquarters.
Since his arrival, Sullivan has been busy planning town events, such as the town's Fourth of July Festival and the Easter egg hunt, which drew about 2,500 people in April. Last year's July 4 parade drew more than 60,000 people.
The parks and recreation department manages youth athletics, the largest program in Cabarrus County with nearly 2,700 children. Sullivan said the department is looking into adding more recreational fields, and the town will consider adding more parks and building a recreational facility for programs as the town grows.
Last week, Gina Grothoff of Mint Hill sat at a picnic table, chatting with other mothers at Harrisburg Park. The group of Cabarrus and Mecklenburg County moms brings their homeschooled children to a different park every Wednesday to let them play together.
"We look for a place where we can keep an eye on the kids," she said.
Town officials recently approached the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners to request that ownership of Pharr Mill Road Park, a county-run park in Harrisburg, be transferred from the county to the town. But requirements established by grants used to fund the park require that the county own the park for a period of years, so the county agreed instead to lease the park to the town.
Acquisition of the park would also make the town adjacent to Canterfield Estates, a neighborhood that the town has considered annexing.
Sullivan described Pharr Mill Road Park as a "passive" park, the type of park often found more appealing to adults, he said.
The park, which features walking and biking trails, ponds and a playground, has no athletic fields.
Reapsmith planned to address the Harrisburg Town Council on Monday, presenting data that showed the town would need to spend $56,000 annually to support the new park. That cost would include utilities, equipment and salaries and benefits for two new employees to maintain the park. The cost would be paid by tax dollars.
The Parks and Recreation Department works with a budget of approximately $600,000.