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Creek rehabilitation becomes park priority

Landscape architect Ed Lastein describes park improvements at a Flat Rock Village Council meeting. Landscape architect Ed Lastein describes park improvements at a Flat Rock Village Council meeting.

FLAT ROCK — Having just adopted a new $1.7 million budget that freezes new park spending for a year, the Flat Rock Village Council heard a presentation about plans to naturalize a creek that dissects the 67-acre park.

Andrew Bick, of French Broad Mitigation Partners, showed the council maps and slides of how the engineers could zig-zag the creek, fix bank erosion and plant flowering trees. Plus the firm would monitor the improvements for seven years. It sounded good but potentially costly, so someone asked how much.
"This is not going to cost the village a nickel," Bick said.
With the council's tentative approval, the plan to rehabilitate Dye Creek moved to the top of the priority list, not including work the Village Council is already committed to for the clubhouse renovations and landscape buffering between the park and the Highland Golf Villas.
"It sounds almost too good to be true," said Vice Mayor Nick Weedman. "Here somebody walks in and says we're going to do this amazing thing for you and it's not going to cost you a nickel."
Amazing but true.
The work would be done through a state mitigation credit program under which developers can get a permit for projects that eliminate wetlands by paying for projects to repair or enhance wetlands somewhere else. It's the same program Laurel Park used to re-channel the creek through Rhododendron Lake Park, a job the French Broad Mitigation Partners also completed.
The creek that crosses the Park at Flat Rock from Highland Lake and empties into King Creek was straightened decades ago most likely for farming, said landscape architect Ed Lastein, the village's park development consultant.
"It's in full sun, which means it's choked with vegetation, especially this time of year," he said.
The contractor proposed a new path with "meander bends," stream bank repair and plantings of river birch, flowering dogwood, elderberry and pussy willow. Permits from state and federal regulators should take no longer than 14 months, Bick said. The agreement would require the village to place a conservation easement on the mitigated property, barring buildings and other non-natural changes on that 6.5 acres.
In another park matter, the Village Council agreed to designate a pavilion as the next priority for the park. The request came from the newly appointed Flat Rock Park and Recreation Foundation Director Maurean Adams and the foundation board. Board members said they believe people will donate for a pavilion.
Many residents have not discovered the park, said Ginger Brown, of the park advisory board.
"They don't know where the park is," she said. "They don't know that it's open."
The Village Council agreed to explore signage.
The newly adopted 2014-15 budget allocates $363,300 in capital spending for the park, including $150,000 for the last installment of the $1.15 million purchase, $147,000 for the clubhouse restrooms and renovations, $54,500 for park buffering and $11,800 for unspecified development costs.