HUNTERSVILLE – Additional financing for continued upgrades at a popular recreational facility Huntersville shares with Davidson was one of the individual items town commissioners reviewed during a budget review session held earlier this month.
A request by the Huntersville Parks and Recreation Department (HPRD) for $250,000 from the town’s Travel and Tourism Fund to pave a dirt and grass parking area at Bradford Park triggered a back-and-forth discussion providing a vivid illustration of the prioritization and money-distribution decisions that routinely accompany the annual budget evaluation and approval process.
HPRD Director Michael Jaycocks submitted the request, explaining paving the parking area would be an aesthetic and practical improvement at the park – a 210-plus acre, multi-field facility off Davidson-Concord Road (N.C. 73) at the northeast edge of town. Jaycocks said steady use of the park was the main reason he sought additional paved parking. He said Bradford Park currently hosts events three-to-four days and nights each week and is a regular venue for weekend tournaments throughout the year. And he added that new artificial turf soccer fields with lights (provided as part of a recent $3.2 million investment in the park by Mecklenburg County) are expected to draw more events to the facility.
At the budget workshop, Mayor John Aneralla acknowledged the potential value of parking upgrades at the park but also questioned if a parking lot was the best use of a quarter-million dollars of travel and tourism funds.
“Obviously we have needs and wants,” Aneralla said to fuel the discussion, “but would $250,000 be better used for greenways?”
In response, commissioners Dan Boone, Melinda Bales and Nick Walsh endorsed the idea of investing travel and tourism dollars in the parking lot improvements.
“We have a state-of-the-art park,” Boone said, “and we’re parking cars in a pasture.”
Bales added she supported the idea of using tourism dollars at a place that not only serves local residents but also brings tourists to town. And Walsh said he considered the parking lot upgrade a good investment.
“I agree we should probably put some asphalt down,” he said.
A lone venture
A highlighted issue during the discussion was the fact Davidson does not intend to participate in the project to improve the parking lot. The HPRD manages Bradford Park, but Davidson and Huntersville both use the 9-year-old facility, which is on property owned by the county. The basic agreement, Jaycocks said, is that Huntersville and Davidson usually divide park expenditures on an 80-20 basis, with Huntersville assuming the higher percentage of park-related expenditures.
In a budget workshop in April, Davidson Town Manager Jamie Justice did not include a Davidson Parks and Recreation Department request for $50,000 for the parking lot paving in his recommended town expenditures.
“We knew what Davidson had decided,” Jaycocks said, “so we asked for 100 percent of the funding from Huntersville. It will be up to Davidson to decide if they want to reimburse us in the future.”
And Jaycocks added he considers the parking lot project a sound investment.
“The park hosted more than 2,400 softball and baseball games last year, and there were 31 weekend tournaments at the park,” he said. “With the artificial turf and the new lights, those numbers are going to increase, generating more revenue in the region.”