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Park panel makes appeal for endorsements

FLAT ROCK — Representatives of Flat Rock homeowners associations and other organizations heard about plans for a proposed Highland Lake Park and took back information to their boards for possible endorsements.

The Highland Lake Park Exploratory Committee presented the plan on a rainy Wednesday to several dozen residents at 2, 3 and 4 p.m. A walking tour was part of the committee's invitation but the rain prevented that. After a PowerPoint presentation detailing the higher priorities for park development and the panel's work so far, committee members appealed to the association leaders for an endorsement.
"Public support is very important to this grant," committee member Albert Gooch told the residents. "These grants are very competitive. We are asking you as representatives of the organizations in Flat Rock to meet with your board of directors and write a letter of support that the Village Council buys the park."
Gooch said the town residents might well ask why the committee is seeking the grant if the Village Council had not yet committed to the park.
"We're writing the grant just in case," he said, "because if we miss that Jan. 31 deadline it's Jan. 31, 2014, before we can get that done. If the Village Council decides not to buy it we can always say we didn't mean it."
The committee is soliciting endorsement letters for a state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant application of close to $500,000.
The Flat Rock Village Council created the advisory board to study whether the village residents wanted a park, what residents would want in a park and how much it would cost to build and maintain The projected cost to buy the land and develop the park rose to $2.5 million last week when the advisory panel began to fix rough cost estimates on recommended improvements.
The committee is assuming a land cost of about $1 million for the 67-acre Highland Lake Golf Course, which is on the market for $1.3 million but was offered for $1.1 million when the county Board of Commissioners tentatively agreed to buy it in 2011. The county commissioners reversed course and abandoned plans to buy the land amid widespread opposition to a soccer complex.
The exploratory committee expected to see representatives of Historic Flat Rock Inc. and the Flat Rock merchants association and the homeowners associations of Highland Lake Village, Highland Golf Villas, Staton Woods, Teneriff, Tranquility, Dunroy, Claremont, Stonebridge, Woodhaven and Crooked Creek at the meeting. Highland Lake Village has already endorsed the grant.
Committee chair Ginger Brown said the committee will recommend that the Village Council approach park development in a "layered approach" that will spread cost out over a number of years.
"It will allow us to see how the park is used and allow us to see how to run a park," she said.
Bill Owens, a Staton Woods resident, looked out at the property from the desk of the Highland Lake clubhouse and talked about the daffodils he had planted on a bank that faces a fairway. They turn their faces toward the sun, he said, so they face away from his house and toward the broad grassy expanse that could be a park.
"I think it's a great concept if it can't be a golf course," Owens said. "I would like to see dogs to be able to run on it."