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County buys 13 acres adjoining East Flat Rock Park

EAST FLAT ROCK — Henderson County commissioners' authorization to buy an adjoining 13½ acres could enable the county to expand East Flat Rock Park in the future.

County staffers evaluated the East Flat Rock property as a possible site for the proposed sportsplex county commissioners want to build for soccer fields, pickleball courts, walking trails and other recreation and determined that it was too small, County Manager John Mitchell said.

“It’s really nice property” in a hardwood forest, he said. “Short-term, we could lay out some trails and long-term, who knows.”

Although the East Flat Rock property checked three of the boxes the county's land hunters are using for the sportsplex — it's flat, has water and sewer access and is on a major road — the site fell short in size. The county hopes to acquire 20-30 acres to accommodate four full-size playing fields, pickleball courts and other recreational amenities.

Mitchell said he recommended the purchase for $395,000 as a worthwhile investment for future park expansion. “I believe the board viewed it as opportunity to expand that park at a good deal for the taxpayers,” he said. “The fact remains that this property effectively doubles the size of East Flat Rock Park.”

The proposed purchase of the property was on the consent agenda for Wednesday's meeting of the Board of Commissioners. Commissioners approved consent agenda items with no discussion.

Board Chair Rebecca McCall said earlier that she favored the purchase.

“The owner actually approached us a while back and asked if we were interested,” she told the Lightning. “Being that it is connected basically to the existing park and it’s not in a floodway or anything, it makes sense to add to the park property. We could expand some of the fields there to play in. We’ll have to work on access to it. That park is very much used and it would be a good addition.”

Although, the site won’t accommodate a full sportsplex, it could be developed to serve the county’s growing youth recreation programs.

“We could probably put some soccer fields in there,” McCall said. “We’ve got to do something soon. We’ve got 626 kids signed up to play soccer this spring.”

The vacant land, owned by Pauline Kuykendall and Grady Stepp, is valued on the tax books at $145,000. Assuming the board accepts the staff recommendation, the county would draw $398,200 from its fund balance to cover the purchase plus a $3,200 environmental assessment.

Mitchell told commissioners on Wednesday that once the purchase closes, he would schedule a ribbon-cutting.

“Anytime you double the size of a park it deserves a little bit of recognition,” he said.