Scotland County recreation board discusses repurposing parks

By Mary Katherine Murphy - [email protected]

LAURINBURG —A few of the county’s dozen public parks may be assigned other uses before next summer.

Scotland County’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board continued discussions on Tuesday of downsizing the number and total acreage of the county’s parks.

“As long as we’ve got these sites we’re trying to maintain, that’s a pretty big burden on the county if these are underutilized facilities,” said Guy McCook, chairman of the Scotland County Board of Commissioners. “We need to either decide that we’re going to use them differently and determine if there’s a need for that, or we need to figure out how to let somebody else take advantage of them.”

The board’s most recent master plan also includes providing pedestrian and bike paths, increasing recreation opportunities, and reevaluating sports offerings.

On Tuesday, the board authorized Parks and Recreation Director Shannon Newton to explore returning the land occupied by By-Pass and Jaycee Parks — both adjacent to Hillside Cemetery —to the city’s ownership and to approach Habitat for Humanity regarding the future prospects of Lincoln Park, which is located behind I.E. Johnson Elementary School.

“Lincoln Park is one of our larger parks, but it doesn’t get a lot of use,” said county maintenance director Mike McGirt. “Then you’ve got the school right there, so that park is really very underutilized. By-Pass, depending on what season, when there’s softball practice or football practice, but any other time…”

By-Pass Park has already been downsized as Hillside Cemetery has expanded.

The board requested that Parks and Recreation staff provide additional information regarding available practice sites for athletic teams.

“We have to take into consideration, to have practice places for these teams, because they normally can’t practice on the game field,” said William Trivette. “Years ago you could go to any of the schools and have your practice, but now you can’t do that … it’s hard for coaches to have a place to practice, and everybody just doesn’t have a big enough yard to hold practice in their yard anymore.”

Newton reported that Parks and Recreation is in discussion with the Scotland County Schools to expand their existing joint use agreement to include Spring Hill Middle School and Covington Street Elementary School grounds in addition to school gymnasiums and the school system’s use of Legion Park’s athletic fields and tennis center.

Another priority identified by the board is the addition of picnic shelters at the Scotland Yard playground on Turnpike Road.

“I don’t know if anyone’s been there on a Saturday morning, but especially during the summer people are having birthday parties there and coming out with yellow crime scene tape and marking off a whole corner for a birthday party, so that possibly is a need,” said Newton.

Possibilities for a pedestrian pathways could include partnership with the city, which as already developed a pedestrian plan. City development director Teddy Warner reported that aspects of that plan could cost from $150,000 to $300,000, and the city is seeking N.C. Department of Transportation funding and other grants to assist in bringing it to fruition.

“There’s two parts: there’s the greenway that’s about 10 miles that circle the city and intersect onto major retail areas, and the pedestrian plan is about 15 to 20 miles of sidewalks covering many areas of the city,” said Warner. “Priority projects focus on areas like the Walmart area and some of the lower-income areas of the city to give them access to retail.”

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.

By Mary Katherine Murphy

[email protected]

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