Jul 17, 2022 - News

County OKs $50 million for parks and greenways

Irwin Creek Greenway

Irwin Creek Greenway. Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios

Mecklenburg County wants to secure as much land as it can to set aside for green space before it becomes too expensive to do so.

Driving the news: Last month, county commissioners voted to give the Parks and Recreation department $50 million to buy land for future parks, greenways and nature preserves, as WFAE recently reported.

  • That money is specifically for land acquisition, not for expenses like capital improvements, per Bert Lynn, capital planning division director for Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation.

By the numbers: This is nearly double the $26 million the parks department received last year for land acquisition, Lynn said.

  • “That additional increase in this years budget underscores our need for improving access to public open space, growing our greenway trail network, and protecting natural resources,” Lynn said.
  • A low-cost park project could cost around $1 million, Lynn said.
  • The county spent $25 million on the Sportsplex in Matthews, which was completed in 2017, and about $40 million on the overhaul of American Legion Memorial Stadium, which reopened in 2021.

Why it matters: New development is cropping up all over Charlotte at a time when land prices are soaring and as local officials look to improve access to green space.

“Right now in the current climate of growth here in Charlotte, the price of everything is higher than it was a few years ago,” Lynn tells Axios.

“If we don’t act now in terms of acquiring that land — if we wait 10 years — there’s going to be very little land left to acquire,” he adds.

Zoom in: The parks department is honing in on 17 “focus areas” around the county where residents don’t have access to public space and parks, Lynn said. That’s where they plan to acquire more land.

  • This includes areas north of Uptown, in University City and in surrounding towns such as Matthews and Mint Hill, Lynn told WFAE.

What’s next: The parks department is in the process of putting together projects for next capital improvement plan, Lynn said. They have to get all of those submitted in early fall, then the board will decide on which projects to prioritize sometime in the new year.

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