DAVIDSON – The naming of a new town park, and the process to permanently protect and preserve the property that has dominated community discussions for the last two years, will be high-priority points of discussion at the town board’s next meeting on July 23.
At the board’s work session on July 9, two presentations by the Park at Beaty Task Force indicated strong public support for Beaty Park as the official future name for the town-owned land along Beaty Street, and outlined the process for establishing a perpetual conservation easement covering the entire 20-acre tract.
The Beaty Park name, supported by nearly four-fifths of the town residents who responded during a two-month online survey, will be the subject of public discussion at the board’s next meeting. The Task Force and the town’s Livability Board have recommended adoption of the name and commissioners could decide July 23, or opt for a few more weeks of public input.
The same approach is likely for the conservation easement, which would specify the type of limited changes allowed on the property, involve a town investment in the process and place the acreage under the management and protection of the Davidson Lands Conservancy (DLC).
Sore spot settled
The park property, acquired by the town decades ago, is an eggplant-with-stem shaped parcel fronting the east side of Beaty between N.C. 115 and Armour Street. It became a hot topic of municipal discussions in 2017 when the town solicited development ideas. A proposed commercial project was eventually rejected, but not before triggering community activism that played a prominent role in the election of a new mayor and four new commissioners that November.
Last year, the current board determined the property should become a park and the task force was created to collect community input and prepare a proposal for the park’s design. The plan, adopted early this year, emphasizes preservation of most of the park’s natural setting enhanced with walking trails, with the northernmost section earmarked for a playground, shelter, parking and other amenities.
In April, the task force initiated the naming effort, encouraging residents to share their opinions. More than 78 percent of those participating endorsed the Beaty Park name. In their recommendation to adopt the name, the task force and Livability Board also encouraged the town to include a park dedication in honor of the Clontz family, who sold the acreage to the town.
The pursuit of a conservation easement covering the park property also evolved from the task force efforts and was endorsed by the town board in March.
The process, outlined for commissioners by task force member Dave Cable, is more involved than many other easement-establishment efforts because the Beaty property includes multiple parcels, it is an in-town setting instead of a rural area and the property abuts more than two-dozen other individually owned parcels and an existing railroad easement.
Cable said the “usual circumstances” don’t make the process impossible, they just present more challenges.
The current proposal is to create a 17.1-acre preservation zone designed to limit use and development of passive recreation areas, except for sidewalks or multipurpose paths. That criteria would be placed on the vast majority of the property, including the existing pond that is considered a central attraction.
In addition, a 2.3-acre development zone would be identified within the easement to allow for basic proposed park amenities like a shelter, playground and restroom building.
The goal would be to place the property under the DLC’s protective umbrella.
The DLC ($6,000) and the town ($5,500) would partner to finance surveys, title searches, documentations and other legalities involved in the property transfer. In addition, the town would be asked to make a one-time $30,000 contribution to support DLC stewardship and legal defense efforts for the perpetual protection of the conservation easement.