Kannapolis looks to upgrade its park system

Kannapolis officials have prioritized six park projects that together will cost roughly $15.5 million as part of the city’s newly created 10-year parks master plan.

The city will host a public presentation on the findings of its Parks and Recreation Master Plan at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 in the Village Park Building.

If adopted by the City Council, the plan would give Kannapolis a blueprint to improve parks, greenways and recreational facilities, according to city officials.

A draft of the plan for council review, with a total projected cost of $47.7 million over 10 years, can be seen online at The council is expected to vote on it later this fall.

Work on the master plan began about eight months ago as a way to update the Livable Communities Blueprint, a countywide plan involving all the municipalities, said Gary Mills, the city’s director of parks and recreation for nearly 15 years.

In the plan, the city used 45,000 for the population – 2012 U.S. Census data had the population at about 44,000 – and said that number is expected to increase to 50,000 by 2024. These improvements are meant to respond to the growing population.

The master plan allows the city to seek state and federal grants and get various national accreditations. The starting points in the plan include improvements to Village Park, expansion of facilities at North Cabarrus Park, development of Irish Buffalo Creek and Rocky River greenways, and acquisition of property for community parks and development of a neighborhood park on the east side of town.

The city offered a chance for public comments through three workshops, a telephone survey of more than 200 households, one-on-one interviews with community stakeholders, an online survey and input from the parks and recreation staff.

“The goal was to garner public input and direction, evaluate … and complete an inventory of existing facilities – both public and private – and to provide recommendations to the city in planning for parks and recreation facilities for the next 10 years and beyond,” Mills said.

“Basically, this serves as a needs assessment for park facilities, park amenities and locations of future parks and greenways.”

The public’s input, and the city’s cost projections and plan of action, are key aspects of the master plan, Mills said, but it’s unlikely the council will approve the $47.7 million in total project costs.

The total cost illustrates the community’s need for improvements that would help Kannapolis’ quality of life and economic development, Mills said.

“The plan provides good guidance in directing the city on the desires of the residents for future park facilities, park amenities, and locations of future parks and greenways,” he said. “Greenways came out on top of all the public surveys and in the workshops. That makes perfect sense, since walking for pleasure is the No. 1 recreational activity in the country right now.”

Cindy Griggs, 59, has lived in Kannapolis more than two decades, raising four children her husband, Farrar, a Kannapolis native. She’s served on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission off and on for more than 15 years.

Griggs thinks Kannapolis’ offerings rate well against cities of similar size. Its proximity to Charlotte Motor Speedway helps draw visitors to multiple destinations – the Gem Theatre, the N.C. Music Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Research Campus – and various events throughout the year.

“Our special events, mainly our summer concert series, as well as the Dale Earnhardt Memorial Park, the downtown Veterans Park with the Memorial Fountain Wall and the multifaceted Village Park, have raised Kannapolis to a regional leisure time destination,” Griggs said.

Recognition of the need for this development is essential, Griggs said.

“It is time to plan for the next 10 to 20 years,” she said. “We must address the changing community, the pressing needs at hand, and get started on future needs before we are so behind we can’t catch up.

“And without a plan endorsed by the City Council, the needs will fall through the cracks, negating economic and potential residential development,” she said. “People will commute to work if needed, but they will live where they can relax and rejuvenate.”

Jeff Ashbaugh, 47, has lived in Kannapolis for 23 years and has been a member of its Parks and Recreation Commission for 14 years.

“If the master plan is adopted and implemented, it will make a good park system better,” Ashbaugh said. “When (the planned) facilities get built, Kannapolis … will be a healthier … , stronger … and more close-knit community. (It) will attract new families and businesses.

“We have a great start,” he said, “but there is still much left to do.”