Neighbors in Charlotte’s Plaza-Eastway corridor who have waited 12 years for Mecklenburg County to fulfill its promise of a regional park came one step closer this week to seeing it happen.
Jim Garges, county park and recreation director, agreed Monday to give neighbors schematics and costs for a finished Eastway Park, northeast of NoDa. Residents hope those figures will sway county commissioners to consider funding the park’s completion during budget talks that start in January.
Topping their list of requests is a sprawling recreation center, equipped with a gym, computer room, daycare, kitchen and other amenities that could serve youth and seniors.
“Our youth don’t have (anywhere) to go to” for recreation, said Ola Mitchell, president of the Bridlewood Community Association. “I think the recreation center should be our main focus first.”
Residents last month renewed complaints about the incomplete Eastway Park, billed years ago as a would-be sportsplex with nine multipurpose athletic fields, picnic shelters, a recreation center and tennis court. Today, it’s a parking lot with two soccer fields, disc golf baskets, a volleyball net and jungle gym.
The county spent $3.6 million in 2009 to open the park’s first phase but little has happened since to develop the 2003 master plan, which called for basketball courts, a spray-ground and walking trail.
Garges said Monday it would cost about $40 million to build the recreation center, and another $20 million to finish the entire park. And while he considers Eastway Park a priority, he told neighbors 22 other county parks are in a similar situation.
Adding to the holdup is the timing: County commissioners have already approved a list of capital projects for 2017 and 2018. Eastway’s not one of them.
We do feel that we’re number one and justifiably so.
Nasif Majeed, president of Plaza-Eastway Partners, Inc.
It’s possible to wedge new projects into that list, but Garges said the county first wants to finish parks and greenways promised in a 2008 bond referendum.
That’s “a touchy situation,” said Nasif Majeed, president of Plaza-Eastway Partners Inc., a coalition of the area’s 18 neighborhoods. “We do feel that we’re number one and justifiably so. We’ve got lost in the woods somewhere.”
The park’s funding was approved in two separate bond measures in 1999 and 2004. After the first phase, work halted when the county stopped all parks projects during the recession. Now, “we’re cooking again,” Garges said.
But neighbors in Eastway feel they have been overlooked. The park and recreation department’s method of planting parks in areas that don’t have them – even if others go unfinished for years – doesn’t ease tensions.
There’s an energy surrounding this issue that has not been here before. We don’t want to let it die.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner George Dunlap
Commissioner George Dunlap, a critic of that method, told residents Monday to devise a strategy to convince at least five commissioners to approve funding the full park.
“There’s an energy surrounding this issue that has not been here before,” he said. “We don’t want to let it die.”