Ahoskie Council adopts park changes

Published 10:47 am Thursday, November 16, 2017

AHOSKIE – With residents and homeowners on hand to express their opinions as well as offer solutions, the Ahoskie Town Council at its monthly meeting on Tuesday voted to make limited changes at the Ahoskie Creek Park recreation area.

The proposed changes had been first presented to Council in October, but Councilman Charles Freeman made a motion then to table the recommendations until November. On Tuesday evening, three of the suggested items were adopted by unanimous vote, with the rest to be discussed and considered at a later date.

Originally, there were 10 proposed change items Town Manager Kerry McDuffie said he and his staff would recommend to Council for consideration with a cost estimate to the city of between $50,000-and-$60,000:

Adding a sign at the Evans and Academy Streets park entrance. Cost: $3,000

Adding lights to the Evans St. park entrance. $8,000

Turn the Main Street tennis courts into a basketball court. $8,000

Re-route the disc golf hole near the Memorial and Lakeview Drive park entrance. $500

Construct a new road to connect Memorial and Lakeview closer to the baseball field. $25,000

Block Memorial Drive at rear property line of 503 Lakeview Drive, and construct a privacy fence around the Memorial-Lakeview corner of the park. $7,000

Construct barricade on Lakeview at the SW property line of 600 Lakeview Dr. to allow bicycles, golf carts, and pedestrian traffic only; no vehicles. $500

Install a gate at Camlin St. at the NW property line of 902 Camlin St.; to remain closed except during Heritage Days, July 4th, and other special events. $3,000

Remove ALL speed bumps from all parts of town. $1,000

Police department clears the park and closes the Evans St. gate each night after dark and re-open at 5 a.m. each morning.

Total estimate:  $56,000

McDuffie said it was more feasible to do the first three items at the October meeting, but now was proposing doing the third, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth recommendations.

McDuffie said he had met with the residents living near the park complex and relayed their concerns to Council.

“The folks in the community, although they liked all the ideas and want to see it done, the important things they want to see is: (1) the gate put up on Camlin, (2) put a barrier where you can only have bicycles, pedestrians, and golf carts come down from the 600 block of Lakeview, and, (3) they were okay with eliminating all the speed bumps around the area of the complex,” McDuffie reported.

The Town Manager had desired a vote on turning the Main Street tennis courts into basketball courts. But after a couple of citizens present at the meeting who said they frequently used the Main Street tennis facility and expressed concern over that change, McDuffie said he would not immediately recommend the court surface restructuring.

“I’d like to hear a few more ideas on that,” he acknowledged.

“We have basketball courts at four other places in town – plus the gym,” said Councilman Charles Freeman. “But we don’t have any other tennis courts.  When we do the tennis courts, let’s do them properly.”

Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse said he had some ideas he would share with McDuffie at his Town Hall office on expanding the basketball courts, as well as saving the tennis courts.

Mayor Jimmie Rowe asked any of the residents and homeowners present that reside in the areas surrounding the park if they had any input to share in the discussion.

“I love the park,” said resident Elizabeth Harrell, who noted she had lived there for over 10 years. “But the traffic has never been patrolled. There are all kinds of things back there, but we need to look at the traffic for the people in our neighborhood because it’s not being respected.”

She admitted to some complaints: the location of the amphitheater, for instance, whenever there are sound-amplified activities held there can be a nuisance.

“Thank goodness the town has a noise ordinance,” she declared. “Some things were just poorly planned.

“I don’t have a problem with the park there,” she said. “I have a problem with all the traffic that comes by that’s not controlled.”

Harrell praised McDuffie for meeting with the homeowners, and said residents had pushed for the Evans Street entrance off Academy Street for years.

In touting Evans Street as the main park entrance, McDuffie related that most locals were aware of that particular approach to the park area, but his concern was for non-residents.

“The idea is we need to bring people in from out-of-town to support our events,” noted Councilwoman Linda Blackburn.

Blackburn said the city had made quite an investment in the Evans Street entrance with stone columns and a wrought-iron gate.

Resident Greg Phillips said there’s an incredible amount of foot traffic into the park.  Coupled with motor vehicles, he said it presents a potential safety hazard.

“When those cars come flying around the corner there at Pembroke and Memorial, they’re not looking for these kids,” he contended. “It’s not just us; when people walk our neighborhood to enjoy it, they’re running the risk of getting killed.”

Phillips said his main complaint was over discarded trash in the neighborhood from motorists.

“That’s not these little five and fifteen-year-olds,” he declared.

The homeowners primarily appeared to object to the multiple park entrances.

Stewart Fields, a non-resident, spoke up and expressed concern over the idea of erecting a gate.

“What we need to do is correct those who are breaking the law,” Fields said. “But it seems like they’re trying to make it harder to get to the park and that defeats the purpose when it’s a public park.”

Phillips clarified he was not speaking of restricted access, rather than a designated entrance be used that doesn’t go through housing.

“There are two things we should be able to do for the least amount of money at this period in time,” said Freeman. “We need to close the Camlin Street entrance to the park and emphasize going in through Evans, which was the original entrance. With the winter months coming on I think Memorial can be delayed, but it needs to be addressed when the baseball season gets here. We’ve got to get people going in (to the park) at the Evans Street entrance, it’s just that simple.”

Freeman noted the peculiarities of Evans Street, particularly the cobblestone pattern where Evans joins the Edgewood Drive circle.

“FEMA required that,” said Blackburn. “It was because of the flood plain. They said that we could not add asphalt.”

Freeman then made a motion that Council accept the recommendation of installation of a barrier at Camlin, that signs be installed at Evans, and that Council address the access issue again in the warmer months.

Town Attorney Buddy Jones wanted clarity on traffic access in the park area.

“I think you need to get the traffic out of Memorial because of the hospital,” Freeman declared.”You’ll remember that not too long ago we had to put signs up so the rescue squad people wouldn’t have trouble with parking.  So we need to get that done if that’s what it takes.”

Councilman Matt Bradley seconded Freeman’s motion and it passed by a unanimous vote.