Work could begin as early as next month on Catawba County’s latest park. And a $458,000 land purchase clears the way for an adventure playground and more mountain bike trails.
Catawba County bought 18 acres off Little Mountain Road in August to add a front entrance to the planned Mountain Creek Park, where work is expected to start as soon as plans for the park are complete, Catawba County Assistant Planning Director Chris Timberlake said.
That could be as early as January 2020 for the trails and June for the park’s buildings and other infrastructure.
The $8 million project has been in the works for over a decade, but the final plans by consultant Wirth & Associates Inc. are nearly complete after several changes, Timberlake said. The finishing touches include considering comments from a public forum held about the plans and creating technical construction plans to apply for permits.
The biggest change to the proposed plans for phase one of the 606-acre park is the result of an August land purchase for $458,000. Instead of putting the main parking area and park’s building inside the park near the water, Catawba County bought the new piece of land on the southern edge of the park to house most of the park’s infrastructure. The new piece of land is not restricted by the same conservancy rules as much of the rest of the park is, Timberlake said.
The rules restricting construction on much of the land are in place because the park is a conservancy easement created by a public-private partnership among Catawba County, the Catawba Lands Conservancy, Duke Energy, and Crescent Resources.
But the land at the entrance to the park allows the county to build an adventure playground, plenty of parking, a pickleball or tennis court and other potential recreational activities like a rock-climbing wall, Timberlake said. The plans also include a mountain-biking pump track, which is a circuit of hills and curves for mountain bikes — which is a big focus of the park, Timberlake said.
The county sees interest in mountain biking growing, so they want to add that emphasis to the Mountain Creek Park, offering nearly 20 miles of biking trails that the county’s other large parks — Bakers Mountain, St. Stephens and Riverbend — don’t have.
The way the trails are designed makes for a new path each time, with interconnecting loops that vary in size and style, Timberlake said.
“It’s 19 miles but you could almost create your own story within it while biking,” Timberlake said. “One trail might be more flowy and one might be more tight and twisty, more up and down. You can choose your adventure.”
Those trails can be accessed from the main parking area of the park, at the entrance, or visitors can drive to the second parking area at a peninsula on the southern side of the park — where the main parking was originally planned. The proposed plans still call for parking, but this area is focused on quieter activities. There are picnic shelters, a place to put kayaks, canoes and paddleboards into the water, a fishing dock and a small observation deck planned. There are also plans for an amphitheater and a dog park, though dogs are also allowed on trails as long as the animal is on a leash.
The second phase of the park could include a bridge to a peninsula across the lake on the northern end of the park, where the county may put more parking, another lake access point and another observation deck.
For now, the phase one plan is being fine-tuned. “It’s exciting; it truly is,” Timberlake said.
Once plans are done and technical plans for building and paving are complete, the county will apply for building permits and seek approval from the state and the land partners, Timberlake said. The opening date is planned for July 2021.