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Commissioners agree to park property swap by city, School Board

Potentially clearing the way for a park-for-park swap, the Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday signed off on the exchange.

The city of Hendersonville and the Henderson County School Board are negotiating the swap of the 2½-acre Edwards Park, which is owned by the School Board, for the 60-acre Berkeley Mill property, which the city received as a donation from Kimblerly-Clark. The city wants the Edwards Park land for a possible new Fire Station 1.
The commissioners’ action to formally decline to acquire the property means that the city and School Board can continue to negotiate the property swap. Schools Superintendent Bo Caldwell said more environmental study is needed before the deal could be consummated.

Caldwell told commissioners last month that the school system has identified lots of use for the park. The Hendersonville High School baseball team could play its home games at the historic Berkeley Park stadium — built for the Berekley Spinners industrial league baseball team in 1949 — and the School Board over time could add a girls' softball diamond and tennis courts for Bearcat varsity sports. Commissioners’ consent to the property swap came after the School Board agreed not to seek county funding for Berkeley Park improvements before 2025.

Attorneys for the city and School Board would guide a due diligence process to ensure that the School Board's use of the property met the conditions Kimberly-Clark set when it donated the land. Those require that the land be used for public recreation.

The City Council has been unable to fund improvements proposed in an ambitious master it commissioned in 2013. The $4.3 million plan called for a new gateway into the park, a baseball complex, soccer field, a "destination" playground, picnic areas, a memorial tree garden, an overlook garden, dog park, 3½ miles of walking trails and a connection to the Oklawaha Greenway. Except for the greenway connection, no improvements have been achieved. City voters overwhelmingly rejected a $6 million bond issue in 2013 that would have funded park improvements.