Lake Norman & Mooresville

Coming soon: biking, walking, bird watching

Mecklenburg County expects to close on the purchase of 243 acres of the failed Abersham development in September, said Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Director Jim Garges.

From there, the department will ask the public for land-use ideas. County officials already have considered adding a picnic area or a dog park to the land, Garges said.

The county recently approved the acquisition of the failed Abersham development, on Grey Road, north of River Run Country Club, for $3.7 million. The property was expected to become one of the area's high-end neighborhoods when construction started in early 2008. Instead, the development was foreclosed after the housing-market crash.

Now there's new hope for the land, where paved roads and street signs are the only remnants of the planned 58-home luxury neighborhood.

Davidson Parks and Recreation Director Kathryn Spatz said the town will work closely with the county to plan land use.

"We are very excited and pleased the Mecklenburg County commissioners have voted to support the acquisition of this land," she said in an email.

Roy Alexander, executive director for the Davidson Lands Conservancy, agreed with Spatz.

"It was a superb acquisition that the county made," he said. "It has tremendous potential for public enjoyment and public use."

Alexander said he would like to see some area set aside for incubator farms, where residents can plant produce. He also suggested creating a special events facility.

Mecklenburg County eyed the Abersham property as early as 2008 for potential acquisition, but real estate developer Frank Jacobus bought the property before the county could, said Garges.

W. Lee Jones, the division director for the capital planning services of Mecklenburg County, said the county will use the land for mostly passive recreation, such as walking, biking, bird watching and more.

The land is limited in how much active recreational amenities it can put in the park because of a conservation easement, said Garges. Active recreation parks are more intensely developed and include amenities like baseball fields and football fields.

In 2006, Jacobus verbally agreed to give the Davidson Lands Conservancy a 100-acre conservation easement, meeting the town of Davidson's development ordinance requirement.

The agreement ensured the protection of those 100 acres from being developed.

Alexander said he expected Davidson would require the same conservation easement of anyone who purchased the foreclosed land.

There are nearly three dozen parks in the county's north zone and about a half-dozen municipal parks in Davidson.

Still, Garges said, he was pleased the county could acquire land for a new park - especially since the acquisition will create more than 600 contiguous acres when combined with existing Davidson- and county-owned land nearby.

"Passive recreation and greenways are a very important component to have a high-quality place to live and work," said Garges. "We've got to do everything we can to preserve these unique spaces if these opportunities arise."