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Charter school, town, conservancy seek grant for 93-acre Summit Park

A trail to the summit would reward hikers with a panoramic view of the valley and mountains. A trail to the summit would reward hikers with a panoramic view of the valley and mountains.

FLETCHER — Residents could enjoy a hike to a summit and enjoy a panoramic view of mountains in the distance if a three-party team is successful in a plan to acquire 90 acres of undeveloped land for parkland and a charter school campus.

 

Fernleaf Community Charter School and Conserving Carolina are partnering with the Fletcher Town Council to apply for state parks grant for the purchase of the mountainous 93-acre tract that stretches from Old Hendersonville Road to Howard Gap Road. A conceptual plan by the Equinox land planners shows a 1.7-mile network of trails to the Grand Overlook, a picnic shelter and a 40-space paved parking lot at the trailhead off Old Hendersonville Road.
“You get a pretty good 180 to 270-degree view” from the summit, said Kieran Roe, executive director of Conserving Carolina, the Hendersonville-based conservancy that has been working with Fernleaf and the town. “I think it’s definitely oriented toward the east, toward the national forest that you can see in the distance. There are spectacular views from up there. So that wold be definitely be the destination.”
It might be compared to driving to Jump Off Rock or hiking up to Big Glassy Mountain, with the payoff being a nice view of the valley framed by mountains.
“This would be the Jump Off park for Fletcher,” Roe said. “They have that wonderful community park along Cane Creek, which is so well loved. This would be a different kind of park. It wouldn’t be ballfields but would be something unique for Fletcher.”
The three parties have developed a plan that would divide the land, 35 acres to expand the Fernleaf campus and 58 acres for the public park. The school has the land under option to buy at a price of $1.25 million, closing in February 2020. Fernleaf wants to use the land to add school buildings totaling 40,000 square feet to accommodate 608 students when it grows to its planned capacity of K-12. The school currently serves children through third grade and is adding one grade per year until it reaches grade 12, school Director Michael Luplow and Fernleaf board Chair Scott McDonald told the Fletcher Town Council on April 8.
The school is currently in the processing of obtaining a construction loan through low-interest USDA program, it said in a letter. The school and land conservancy would sign a management agreement with the town of Fletcher, obligating the school and Conserving Carolina to the cost of improvements and maintenance. “As a result, the town of Fletcher will bear no monetary responsibility for the project but will benefit from a mountainous park to serve many generations of future Fletcher residents,” the school and conservancy said in the letter.
The two parties said they anticipate:
The school’s part of land acquisition would be $650,000, with plans for $7 million worth of construction and $2 million in land improvements, financed by a $9.6 million loan.
The land purchase would include $400,000 from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant (if approved), $210,000 from Conserving Carolina and $200,000 from a bargain-price contribution. Park land improvements costing $750,000 would be paid by a $450,000 loan and $300,000 donation shared by Fernleaf and the land conservancy.
In addition, Fernleaf also committed to granting an easement through its part of the land for an extension of the Cane Creek Greenway, which runs through the town’s Bill Moore Community Park and along the creek. The new park could connect ultimately to a new Fletcher park on property Meritor donated to the town on the west side of U.S. 25.
The Fletcher partnership is the third local application for a state PARTF funds, which must be matched by the applicant. The city of Hendersonville is seeking a grant for a new Clear Creek greenway from Carolina Village to northern terminus of the Oklawaha Greenway at Berkeley Mills Park and Henderson County is seeking a grant to move the Oklawaha Greenway trail at Jackson Park to higher ground.
“It’s competitive but we’re cautiously optimistic based on what is proposed,” Roe said.
Luplow told the town council that Fernleaf plans to move forward with its campus expansion whether it gets the PARTF grant or not, Roe said the park probably won’t happen without that grant this year or next.
“I can’t speak for the school but in terms of creating the park I think it would be hard to make the park happen without grant coming through this year,” he said. “If at first we don’t succeed we might try until we do succeed. … It’s always hazardous to try to predict” an application’s prospects. “I’ve heard that the budget may be down considerably this year for things like trust funds. All of that brings a note of precaution.” On the other hand, the board that grants PARTF funding generally favors project that add new parkland as opposed to developing existing public lands. The three-way partnership plus the educational features of the proposal also may be an asset when it comes to the review in Raleigh, he said.
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