MOORESVILLE – Connectivity. That’s one of the focuses for the redesign of Liberty Park.
The historic 5.6-acre site is the closest park to the downtown area and will be undergoing a transition. While the park will still be used for recreational purposes, the site will become more than just a place for play.
Redefining the park
Discussions about possibly updating the park started about three or four years ago, recalled Mooresville Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Darrin Hucks.
Hucks, who’s been with the department for more than a decade, said because of the park’s location, conversation of the park’s usage started to shift. The focus became less about recreation and more how to use the space to its full potential.
“We started to look at the park and figure out how we could tie the park into the downtown area,” he said. “We wanted it to be pedestrian-friendly, especially to those who were enjoying the downtown area already. The updates would make it so that (downtown visitors) could walk to the park and have some different activities to do once they go there.”
Phase One of two is slated to include an overlook, a memorial walk, additional parking, an event lawn, restrooms,concession stands and a band shell, plus walking trails throughout the park.
“If the board (of commissioners) approve the funding for it, the construction will most likely start by the summer,” Parks and Recreation Director Pam Reidy said. “(Updates) always depend on the funding. We hope we will only have two phases of the project – we hope to be able to finish it in two phrases.”
The event lawn and bandshell will be able to accommodate a more permanent solution and place for outdoor concerts, Reidy said. Currently, outdoor concerts are hosted on a portable stage outside of Mooresville Town Hall.
“With this space, it will allow for us to do more programming and even provide rental opportunities for the community (that) we don’t have now,” she said. “We have longer lists of renovations we want to see in our parks, along with making them more attractive and desirable places to recreate in town.”
The goal for Liberty Park is to encourage passive recreation – allowing the community to interpret how they want to use the space.
“It was less about baseball and other organized sports,” Hucks said. “We want to open (the park) up for green space, bring them down for concerts and farmers market locations. They’ll have more options to have picnics and other activities – it provides a unique space for a lot of different things.”
Through the years, Liberty Park has slight changes to its amenities. One primary change was the push to make the park more inclusive to all residents, which was done by updating the playground to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards. That is something both Reidy and Hucks said the town will continue to implement throughout the park’s improvements moving forward.
“Over the years we’ve paid more attention to being ADA compliant,” Hucks said. “We put in mulch around the playground area that’s rubberized and provides a safe surface. We’ve also focused on wheelchair access, and we have a handicap-accessible swing.”
What Liberty Park will be losing
As redefining the park and its purpose is underway, some aspects of the recreation site will be demolished, including the youth baseball field.
While there may not be a new baseball site identified on the project update, Hucks said, neighboring parks such as North Main Park and Bellingham Park have fields to accommodate.
“While we will lose that (designated) field, we will gain additional green space,” he said. “The park won’t have much to offer, from an athletic standpoint, but that’s because we’re finding the new purpose for the park. We want to attract people to the park regardless of their interest in athletics. That way, the park can serve more people in a different capacity. Even though we’re losing a bit of the athletic space, we can still relocate those who are interested in specific amenities.”
Hucks said on any given day, especially when school’s out or the weather is nice, the parking lot at the park is full, which emphasises the need for more pedestrian access.
“There is a focus on connection with the downtown area, and we feel this will be a great opportunity,” he said. “We see a lot of folks at the park. We see more people than we do cars, and that’s because a lot of people are walking or riding their bikes to the park.”
What’s to come
Another way of making Liberty Park a destination location that Reidy mentioned is through repurposingthe old mill adjacent to the park. The facility will be used to include restaurants and potential residential options.
The building will be connected through a walkway to the park, which, she said, will be contingent on developers.
“We want to make the connection between the two,” Reidy said. “What we’re hoping is the residential space will allow people to sit outside on their balconies and patio and be able to see the park. This will give them a chance to watch a concert. We want to embrace the idea of quality living.”
Dan Blackman, land planning and design project manager for Stewart Engineer, said the proposed connection between the mill and park will be near the parking area. As they work out the details of that, he said, ADA standards will be put into place when it comes to plan details.
“The idea we heard is that the mill building will be a restaurant-type of space as well, so we feel like we need to make the right connection as we work with a private developer,” he said. “We want to be able to integrate everything. We’re also working out the importance of accessibility. We want to see how the ramp will work when it comes to wheelchair access or even stroller access for the slope of the park.”
When collecting feedback from residents, Reidy said, the No. 1 request coming from residents was to have more outdoor festivals and events.
A close second was more access to hiking and walking trails.
“When we have a more concrete design, I will be anticipating public input sessions,” she said. “For now, we want to make sure we’re serving the community in the best capacity and we hope to do that by at least starting to implement phase one and phase two.”