NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - $36 million. That's how much money New Hanover County voters approved in 2006 to be spent on parks and green space projects.
As we told you last week, Wilmington has already completed some big projects with its share of the money, like improvements at Empie Park and Trails End Boat Ramp. But 6 years later, residents are still waiting on a number of other promised projects - like a downtown park and completed facilities at Olsen Park.
As for New Hanover County, all but $2 million of their bond dollars are spent. Major projects, like Veterans' Park, are finished. Residents in the southern end of the county are enjoying that park, but at nearby Battle Park, development of the advertised park hasn't even started yet.
$500 thousand of the million dollars slated for Battle Park was diverted to another green space project, and now it's not clear if Battle Park will ever materialize. "We've got to determine - is building out a passive park there on that site, in that well defined neighborhood, the right thing to do? So we are giving a fresh look to all of the projects that are currently unspent," said County Manager Chris Coudriet.
Coudriet says because Battle Park is so close to Veterans' Park, it may not be the smartest place to put a new park. We asked him if potentially scrapping plans for Battle Park was fair to voters who said they wanted it. "When you think back to the ballot question, it was not voting for x number of dollars for this project. It was a larger $35.5 million to improve the park system," he explained.
It's an interesting point. While literature circulated by the county and the city laid out the game plan for how the bond money would be spent, that spending plan wasn't binding. The only thing county leaders must do while spending the money that's left, is make sure the project has something to do with green space.
There is $420,000 left for Wrightsboro Park. Conceptual designs for that park are finished, but it's not certain when or if that land will be converted to a park.
Voters also approved $500,000 in funding for the Cape Fear Museum, and another $500,000 for the county libraries. The libraries capital improvement plans include expanding the community space at the Myrtle Grove branch, and building a brand new branch in the northern part of the county. As long as those projects include some element of green space, they could be eligible for bond money.
The county has finished most of its parks bond projects, including Trails End Park and Boat Ramp, Arrowhead Park, and Monterey Heights Park. The $8.5 million Olsen Park project, a joint city/county venture, is still a work in progress.
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