Garland looks for ‘transformation’ through open space plan

By Chris Berendt

October 12, 2013

GARLAND — With an eye toward healthy living and promoting an active community with a few more amenities, the town of Garland has accepted a Community Park and Multi-use Trail Conceptual Open Space Plan.

The plan was developed with technical assistance provided by Holland Consulting Planners, and funded through the Community Transformation Grant Project. Starting in August, meetings took place with town leaders and stakeholders who expressed their desire for a park and multi-use trail.

There were several amenities worked into the plan. They include a 10-foot wide multi-use trail, measuring 4,900 linear feet in length; a basketball court; community garden plots (15 plots, at 3 feet by 12 feet); a 12-space gravel parking area; public restrooms; horseshoe area; and a gazebo covering 1,350 square feet.

Wes McLeod with Holland Consulting Planners, and Bob Barden, a representative of the Community Transformation Project, specifically handling the active living piece, spoke to the Garland Board of Commissioners at its recent meeting.

“Really what this represents is putting the ideas on paper so the next steps can take place to apply for some grants and figure out how the town can proceed over time reaching this vision,” said McLeod. “We wanted to use some of the limited technical assistance that we had to go ahead and put together a park concept for the town and also address the multi-use trail, which is more of a high-priority facility.”

Earlier this year, the City of Clinton was awarded $16,000 of technical assistance funding through the Community Transformation Project Grant Program to enable the city to add a healthy living component to its Clinton 2035 Comprehensive Plan. It also allowed for the wealth to be shared, so Garland was able to get some of the technical assistance grant funds — they were poured into the development of the conceptual plan.

The community park and its amenities would be located off Parkersburg Avenue, between West Front Street and West Warren Street. The trail would essentially go around the entire block, to include the whole park but extending all the way down both Front and Warren streets, from Parkersburg to Church avenues.

The multi-use asphalt path would be broken into two phases, the first covering 2,110 linear feet, the second encompassing 2,790 linear feet. The total cost estimate for the project is about $350,000, with construction administration and fees bringing the estimated cost to approximately $400,000. Those are just estimates and no town dollars have yet been spent toward the project.

However, town officials and planners said the benefits of the plan would be plentiful.

“Overall, the Planning Board felt this was a great concept that does tie into the downtown area with a pedestrian-friendly approach,” deputy clerk Jennifer Richardson said. “And having a community garden plot would be of great use to the town with the amount of food that could be produced at low-cost to the citizens.”

Following the Planning Board’s approval of the plan, the Garland Board of Commissioners threw its unanimous support behind the proposed project earlier this week. Planning Board chairman Tim Register touted the potential of the project in making a community impact.

“We do think it’s a good concept, especially the community garden concept in it,” said Register. “It’s something that can be done at low-cost and something that can involve the faith community. We’re certainly in favor of it.”

Barden said the plan could pay dividends in the future.

“It’s a nice vision and a dream for this town,” said Barden. “It’s a nice idea and I hope you will take a good look at it, and we’ll try to do whatever we can in the future to be as resourceful as we can with whatever we can find to help Garland. I think what you’ve got is an option you can look at. It’s not in concrete by any means, but you can certainly take it and go with it.”

McLeod agreed, saying the plan could also complement other greater greenway efforts.

“Along that rail right of way (near Garland Shirt Factory) there is potential for the Wilmington-Fayetteville greenway to be constructed for the next few years,” he remarked. “There have been conversations about whether or not they are going to choose to use an existing rail right of way or run along the Cape Fear River.”

Along with accepting the conceptual plan, the board also adopted a resolution of support, endorsing the greenway corridor from Fayetteville to Wilmington and multi-use trail in the Garland town limits, “that will incorporate the abandoned Atlantic Seaboard Railroad right of way” in the town limits, the resolution stated.

The proposed park facility is on town-owned land, the majority of which is cleared. There is a structure on the portion of property, as well as the town well, which would remain with a vegetative screen under the plans.

Barden and McLeod, in a presentation to Garland town officials, provided a comprehensive list of grant programs. Many state and federal grant options can be explored to fund the park plan, implementation of which will involve the combined efforts of community leaders and residents.

The process can be long — one that necessitates partnerships, grant applications and an action committee to meet regularly to discuss progress — but it is achievable with perseverance and dedication, they said.

“We really appreciate the planning assistance,” said Garland Mayor Winifred Murphy, “and we know that whatever grants we apply for, we have this plan in place that can help and guide us.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at