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Ask Matt ... if booming east side will get a city park

Ballantyne Commons is one of numerous developments that have added 1,600 dwellings east of I-26 in the past 25 years. Ballantyne Commons is one of numerous developments that have added 1,600 dwellings east of I-26 in the past 25 years.

Q. Given the growth of the area around Walmart and farther east, will the city of Hendersonville build a park there?


Sept. 31, 1994, was the day the city of Hendersonville “jumped the Interstate” and annexed some prime commercial properties. Today residential growth is finally catching up with the commercial. In the past 20 years, some 1,600 new single-family, apartment or condo units have been annexed, including Wolfpen, Brittany Place, Morningside, Claystone, Sugar Hill, Ballantyne Commons, Wolf Chase, Cedar Bluffs, Cedar Terrace and Cypress Run. Add to the list the latest Universal at Lakewood, a 291-unit apartment complex surrounding the U.S. Postal Service annex.
Applying a modest estimate of two persons per unit, you have an amoeba-shaped urban area with a population of 3,200. We can tag this “East Hendersonville.” But it is a city without a park and Hendersonville officials have no current plans to add one.
The issue of park responsibility is mixed. Fletcher, Flat Rock and Mills River have awesome parks that are the envy of many small towns. Laurel Park has Laurel Green, Jump Off Rock and the 10-acre Rhododendron Lake Nature Park. Hendersonville’s Patton Park has nice amenities yet is relatively small for the area it serves. City dwellers are blessed by the county-owned Jackson Park – which is 10 times the size of Patton Park and just a few blocks from Main Street.
So how big should a park be? I found a modest standard that calls for five acres per 1,000 population. One could thus make the case that East Hendersonville is worthy of a 16-acre park. I suspect if the City of Hendersonville is to acquire land for a traditional park, unless it is in a floodplain or the land was gifted, the cost would be prohibitive.
City Council member Jennifer Hensley, a strong supporter of parks and greenways, mentioned recent changes in the city’s development ordinances that call for green space and possible trail connections such as one to extend the Oklawaha Greenway. The City just received a $376,000 matching grant to build the new 0.8-mile Clear Creek Greenway that would end at Carolina Village. City staff is already working to extend the trail under I-26 to serve East Hendersonville residents.
Jeff Donaldson, who chairs the county’s Recreation Advisory Board, was less optimistic about new facilities countywide.
“There is zero capital available for parks,” he said. “We have been trying to get more soccer fields and we had to fight just to get the tennis courts repaired at Jackson Park.”
County Commissioner Rebecca McCall responded to our inquiry about the county’s role in outdoor recreation. While McCall is not opposed to greenway development she said that county park expansion may be premature and much depends on the condition of existing parks. The county maintains 11 sites that cover an area from Etowah to Edneyville and from Fletcher to Tuxedo.
Most of the new developments in East Hendersonville have some token park features such as a playground and dog walking area. None have basketball courts and only Wolfpen, a gated community, has tennis courts. But for many, a traditional park may be underused. “Most of us are over 55,” said Janice Mallindine, president of the Wolf Chase Board. “We have a nature trail system in Wolf Chase. If we want to hike we go to Pisgah Forest.”
For those who want to walk in a safe area, the nearby North Henderson-Apple Valley school perimeter road is an option that some enjoy. But the walking track, tennis courts and sports fields are locked and off limits to the public.
Kyler Land is a resident of Brittany Place and a city resident. She thinks it would be awesome to have a park nearby. “We take our 3-year-old to Bill Moore Park in Fletcher,” said Land. “We have a playground here but there are more people there. For kids, it’s all about the social thing.”
Clint Case has lived on Francis Road for 40 years. “It was a dead end street until they connected to Lakeside Road,” said the Cranston Print Works retiree who sees a row of Cedar Terrace apartments from his front window. “I don’t like the traffic from Sam’s Club and the new apartments (Universal) will make things worse.” Case has had a trailer, a 4-wheeler and a generator stolen from his property. “We were easy picking,” he said. Just recently a young driver ran off Francis Road and demolished the wellhouse in his front yard. “We would sell if a developer made us a good offer,” Case said.
Cecil Pryor, owner of Pryor Auto Sales, is not ready to sell. Pryor built his home off U.S. 64 in 1989. He lives in the county but is sandwiched between two city housing developments. “We used to be way out in the country,” he said. “We rode motorcycles out there before the five-lane was built.” Pryor is not pleased with all the growth but said he can’t stop it. “We’re still convenient to I-26.”
The future for East Hendersonville is murky. The easy annexation laws in place when Hendersonville first jumped the Interstate are gone. Most cities across the state now offer developers water and sewer so they can extend their corporate limits and protect their tax base. Unfortunately, taking a chunk here and a chunk there makes for poor planning. Hendersonville has done a good job serving these new developments with police, fire and solid waste service but for parks and recreation — “East Hendo” will have to wait.

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