Seen from the soon-to-be trail head of the Mountains to Sea Trail off Covered Bridge Road, the town has roughly 120 acres along the Neuse River to develop into park land.
CLAYTON -- The town is well on its way to owning 120 acres along the Neuse River near the Mountains to Sea Trail, but the question is what, exactly, to do with the land.
At a joint meeting Monday between the Town Council and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, consultants led a brainstorming session for Clayton’s latest park venture.
The town already owns 80 acres of the future park site; another 40 acres belong to DuPont, which used the land as an agricultural research site in the 1970s. The company used a trench on the property for the then-legal dumping of chemicals.
DuPont will restore the contaminated land through the N.C. Brownfields Program, but that requires the town to already have a site plan in mind so DuPont can restore the land for its intended use.
Since the town has no time frame for developing the land and no funding source in place, the brainstorming session was an exercise in dreaming big. Some people suggested a nature center, a ropes course and even a zip line that would span the Neuse River.
“If you start with the money side of things, you never will do a good job,” said Town Manager Steve Biggs.
“If people can envision the possibilities, then they resolve to find the resources.”
The town hired Sara Burroughs of Sage Design and Melissa Miklus of Alta Greenways to create a site plan for the future park. Before inviting the council and the parks board to brainstorm, they took everyone on a photo tour of the site, which is barely visible from Covered Bridge Road.
The two had previously ventured onto the 120 acres, wandering amid waist-high kudzu where they discovered old-growth oaks and sycamores, a pond, dilapidated barns and even a family graveyard.
The park is close to the Mountains to Sea Trail, and it has rolling hills and an abundance of trees, so ideas for the park focused on what Burroughs called “passive recreation,” or recreation uses that don’t require the construction of major facilities.
“It’s important that we look at what the site offers in terms of minimal development,” said Councilman Art Holder.
“I think this is an opportunity to do something different that’s more passive and nature-oriented rather than sports recreation.”
Still, the town is seeing a growing demand for ball fields, and Councilman Butch Lawter suggested dedicating a portion of the site to ball fields, while the rest could be walking trails and picnic areas.
Councilman Michael Grannis suggested an amphitheater but one that would blend into the environment. “I think the more natural we can make it, the better it would be,” he said.
The next step in the development of the site plan is to invite the public to share its ideas. The hope is to have the site cleaned by the second quarter in 2013.