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Park backlash erupts on county commission

A backlash against spending on parks emerged on the Henderson County Board of Commissioners Wednesday.

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County participation required for a $50,000 grant for a walking trail at county-owned Westfeldt Park squeaked by on a 3-2 vote after commissioners Grady Hawkins and Larry Young objected to potential long-term costs and questioned whether park spending countywide was running out of control.
Young pointed out that the county is already spending money on Jackson Park improvements, a new Tuxedo park, Dana Community Park improvements and the Hendersonville Christian School property while the Village of Flat Rock is considering a $2.5 million park investment and Mills River and Fletcher are expanding their parks.
"It seems like parks have got a big show going on as to who can build the most parks," Young said. "When is enough enough? That's the question I have."
The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy is applying for $250,000 in state grant money to construct a 1,300-foot greenway trail at Westfeldt Park on the French Broad River. The Westfeldt Park greenway is part of a larger trail plan that a number of organizations plan to pursue in cooperation with the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., which is building its new plant on the French Broad River near the park.
The objection to more park spending came when the staff asked the board to adopt a revised resolution to support a $50,000 state grant to cover the cost; the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy is applying for a separate $200,000 grant for the remaining cost, and county officials said they don't expect the county will have to contribute money.
Hawkins objected to a part of the resolution that commits the county to "full obligation for payment of the balance of project costs."
Commissioner Tommy Thompson also objected to the language. "I hate being held hostage at any time," he said.
Chairman Charlie Messer and Commissioner Michael Edney argued for adopting the resolution, on the grounds that the project is part of a partnership with Sierra Nevada that helps promote the French Broad.
"This is the type of thing that got Sierra Nevada here," he said. The county's industry recruiting organization, the Partnership for Economic Development, has been promoting recreation and the outdoors as an asset and it has helped sell the area, Edney said.
Thompson joined Messer and Edney in voting for the resolution while Hawkins and Young said no.