DOBSON —After a lengthy debate on the matter, the Surry County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a county match that, if a grant is approved, will expand the recreational offerings at Shoals Recreation Center Park.
The action came as the board met Tuesday night in the Commissioner’s Meeting Room of the County Government Center in Dobson.
In addition, the board approved a five-year master plan for the park, one with a wish list including an expanded 18-hold disc golf course, a picnic pavilion and other amenities.
Addressing the request, Christina Walsh with the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, who assisted the park committee with the grant application, said the grant is the result of a lot of work.
“The Shoals Community Park Committee came to us and expressed interest in the park expansion in November 2012,” she said. “Since then we have been working on the master plan.”
After soliciting community input, Walsh said the community survey showed area residents overwhelmingly wanted more hiking and walking trails.
“Our priorities (in the master plan) are hiking trails, a disc golf course and a picnic pavilion,” she said of the results of community input.
Phase I of the project would involve creating a 6,800-foot hiking trail around the park. A second phase will create a second, 1,800-foot trail. Two bridges will be constructed over waterways on the trail.
To that end, the group is on the cusp of seeking a $230,000 grant from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, a grant that requires a 50 percent county match.
According to Jesse Day of the council, the deadline to submit the application is Jan. 31, so time is of the essence.
If approved, the total project cost will be around $461,000, Day said.
“As proposed in the application, a portion of that would come from the county over two fiscal years,” he said.
Discussing the matter, the board had numerous questions, including who would ultimately end up owning, and thereby maintaining, the property.
“The only concern I have with this is in my mind, you’re creating something you can’t look after,” said board Chairman Eddie Harris. “Is this a tiger by the tail?”
A group representative in the audience responded that there are numerous volunteer groups who are already working with the committee to maintain the existing park.
“They get lots of volunteers,” said Commissioner Paul Johnson. “Their group list is probably 50 people strong. I would like to say that there are five community centers in the county, and all five are used for recreation to a point as best they can afford. But none of the groups have been able to raise community support and get the community involved to the point the Shoals group has done. They’ve raised thousands of dollars and I couldn’t county the number of hours they’ve spent working on the park.”
After more discussion the master plan, required for the grant application, the approval of the grant funding and a use and maintenance agreement were all unanimously passed on a motion by Johnson.
Keith Strange can be reached at 719-1929 or by Twitter at @strangereporter.