Recreation plan adopted

Published 7:30 pm Friday, November 1, 2019

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MURFREESBORO – After a public hearing at its Oct. 23 meeting, the Murfreesboro Town Council approved a comprehensive recreation plan to make improvements to existing parks and to expand activities and programs offered to the citizens.

Jamie Heath, Lead Planner from the Mid-East Commission, presented a summary of the information to the council. The report was compiled in collaboration with the town’s recreation advisory board for over a year through surveys, analyses, input meetings, and more.

“It was overwhelmingly clear that the public wants walking and biking trails,” Heath reported, noting that was requested by 78 percent of survey respondents and often mentioned at the public input meetings.

According to the survey, other highly requested park additions and upgrades included outdoor swimming pools/water parks, nature trails, and picnic facilities. For recreational programs, fitness and wellness programs were the most sought after, followed by swimming lessons for children, water fitness programs, and more youth sports programs.

The bulk of the extensive recreation plan was focused on improvements to Murfreesboro’s three existing parks: Lakeview and Harrell Field, Murfree’s Landing, and Riverside Park.

Suggested improvements for the 5.5 acres of Lakeview and Harrell Field included an accessible walking and biking trail, benches, checker/chess boards, exercise station, obstacle course, and lights.

For Murfree’s Landing, which is located by the Meherrin River at the end of Hart Street, residents also requested an accessible walking and biking trail. Other recommendations for the 25-acre park included an amphitheater or gazebo/grandstand, a fishing pier, grills, natural play space, wildlife viewing binoculars, a picnic shelter, and more. Currently, approximately 22.5 acres of the park are wooded, while the rest is cleared space.

Riverside Park, located at the corner of River Street, received the most improvement recommendations, many of which centered on upgrading existing facilities such as the basketball courts, baseball field, and sand volleyball court. Like the other parks, a walking/biking trail and picnic tables were among the suggestions. Other recommendations for the 20-acre park included an accessible playground, bicycle racks, chalkboard wall, frisbee golf course, and a splash pad.

The recreation plan also suggested the town build partnerships with Chowan University and other local schools and churches for joint use of their facilities and programs in order to offer more options to townspeople.

Two town residents chose to speak during the public comment portion of the public hearing. Both were supportive of the plan that had been laid out, though one commenter, David Brown, said he thought organized sports shouldn’t be a high priority compared to the other suggestions.

“I think the focus needs to be on community-related areas for people to voluntarily exercise,” he explained.

The town council then had the opportunity to ask questions and comment on the plan. Council member Berna Stephens, who helped compile the plan as a member of the recreation advisory council, said many of the improvement suggestions were focused on things people can do on their own, outside of things like rec leagues and organized sports. The recommendations were also made to cover people of all ages, not just young children.

Council member Billy Theodorakis asked Heath which improvement she thought they should seek first.

She answered by pointing out that adding a walking trail to Lakeview and Harrell Field would help meet the high demand from citizens for that specific kind of improvement and would be easiest to implement. She also stated that the Mid-East Commission could assist the town in searching for grants to fund the improvements laid out in the recreation plan.

Before he called for a motion, Mayor Hal Thomas noted the plan would serve as a guideline for the town moving forward.

After the discussion concluded, Stephens motioned to approve the plan, and Council member Sarah Wallace seconded. The vote was unanimously in favor.