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Flat Rock panel seeks input on park

FLAT ROCK — A committee exploring a Flat Rock park is inviting residents to comment on the proposal during an open meeting on Thursday night. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the parish hall of St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church on Rutledge Road at Greenville Highway.

The Flat Rock Village Council created the advisory committee to gather information, cost estimates and public input on whether the local body should buy the 67-acre Highland Lake Golf Club and turn it into a municipal park. The Village Council is open to ideas, Mayor Bob Staton says, and has not ruled out anything except soccer fields and operating the golf course.
"The public should understand that this is just a listening session," said Ginger Brown, who is chair of the committee and resident of Highland Lake Villas. "We just want to hear what the public would like to see if the village purchases the park."
People are welcome to bring up ideas for what they'd like to see in a park and to express concerns and opposition to the park. So far, residents responding in emails have expressed concern about traffic and noise, she said.
"That is a point that I think that the Village Council needs to know," she said.
The committee, appointed by Staton after the Village Council voted to go forward with the exploratory phase of the park, has made an email address available for residents who want to respond — park@villageofflatrock.org. And the town's website, villageofflatrock.org, is offering a poll. As of Tuesday, the poll had drawn 76 responses with 61 percent supporting the park, 14 percent opposed and 25 percent having "not yet formed an opinion." The town had also received 55 emails.
"The emails have been very positive about what people would like to have in a park," she said. Some people have brought up ideas the committee had not suggested. People have expressed concern about "impact on neighborhoods, funding, things like that," she said.
Brown urged those who cannot attend Thursday's meeting to make their thoughts known by email and through the online survey.
"Please go to that Village website and take the survey because we do look at that, and that's where we get our ideas, too," she said. "It never occurred to me that Frisbee golf would be something we'd have. Again, the final decision is up to the council about what they're going to do and if they're going to move ahead."
A map of the entire tract will be on display so residents can see exactly where the park would be situated. In a draft of possible park improvements prepared by a consultant for the Village Council, a map showed tennis courts, a dog park and walking trails.
Brown urged residents to carpool to the meeting because parking at the parish hall is limited.
Staton and Village Council members have said a tax increase of 1 to 2 cents per $100 valuation is possible to cover operating costs. The Village has enough money in reserves to buy the land without raising taxes; it has a fund balance of $4.8 million.
During a Flat Rock Village Council meeting last week, Councilman Dave Bucher, one of two council liaisons on the park exploratory committee, said that committee members Albert Gooch and Terry Hicks had been assigned the job of looking into grants. Gooch contacted the state Division of Parks and Recreation, which controls a trust fund that makes park grants to local governments.
"They did not seem discouraged at all," Bucher said. "I think there's a pretty good chance. ... They are pursuing other grants as well."
One possibility for a financial partnership that village officials have mentioned is Park Ridge Health, which offered to be a park sponsor when the Board of Commissioners looked at buying the land.