Mint Hill commissioners recently approved a conditional zoning for acreage off Thompson Road, clearing the way for development of Stevens Creek Nature Preserve and accompanying nature center by Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation.
Access to the $7.2 million nature preserve and center will be off Thompson Road, but the nature center will be built between Country Woods subdivision and I-485.
The focus of the nature center will be on stream ecology, and there will be indoor and outdoor learning space for environmental education.
Chris Matthews, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation division director of nature preserves and natural resources
When complete, the project will cover approximately 280 acres.
The county already owns about 230 acres for the preserve and is in the process of purchasing an additional 40 acres to build the nature center and parking lot.
Chris Matthews, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation division director of nature preserves and natural resources, said that more than 50 acres were timbered and stripped of dirt years ago when I-485 was being built.
By using that land for an approximately 12,000-square-foot nature center, the county will be able to keep the wooded land intact.
Matthews said that Mecklenburg County Storm Water is making plans to restore Stevens Creek, the creek running through the property, to take care of erosion concerns. He said the creek will play a large role in the preserve once it is restored.
“We want people who visit the nature center to have access to the creek,” Matthews said. “The focus of the nature center will be on stream ecology, and there will be indoor and outdoor learning space for environmental education.”
When complete, Stevens Creek Nature Center will be the fourth nature center in the county joining Reedy Creek, Latta and McDowell.
The preserve will feature a network of pedestrian trails and shelters, but will not be open to bicycles or horses. A nature-based play space is planned adjacent to the nature center.
Matthews said once the initial plans are available, his department will hold public meetings so that residents can give input on the building design and other amenities.
Mint Hill town manager Brian Welch said the new nature preserve will be a welcome addition to the town.
“We are excited to have Mecklenburg County build the nature preserve in our town,” Welch said. “It will be a huge benefit to the town from a tourism standpoint and should positively affect the property values of neighboring communities.”
Matthews said construction is fully funded and should begin in the summer or fall of 2016.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.