Alexanders Ford park closer to reality

Published 12:59 pm Friday, July 16, 2010

Polk County is getting closer to having a nature preserve and historical park at Alexanders Ford.

The county could close on the property by the end of this year thanks to grants that will completely cover acquisition costs.

Tom Fanslow, Land Protection Director of Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, described the property to the Polk County Board of Commissioners recently, saying it’s as if someone designed a botanical garden for you.

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Commissioners approved amendments which updated the terms of the lease of the property with the Bradley Community Benefit Fund through the Polk County Community Foundation as well as a budget ordinance for the $1,419,500 project, a resolution supporting the project and appointed Ambrose Mills as the project manager.

The county has obtained funding through the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which will finance the purchase of a 48-acre riparian area (permanent conservation easement required), the N.C. Natural Heritage Trust Fund, which will finance the purchase of a conservation easement on 114.52 acres and the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF), which will finance the purchase of a fee simple title to the 114.52 acres and pay for park development costs.

Fanslow gave commissioners an overview of the project recently and said the vision for the project is to create a nature preserve that will be low maintenance and low cost to the county.

Its going to be a very uncomplicated plan, Fanslow said. The vision is to preserve the site for the future.

The land is situated along almost a mile stretch of the Green River and includes part of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, which follows the route of assembly of the American Patriot army which decisively defeated an American Loyalist army at the battle of Kings Mountain, S.C., in the fall of 1780.

Fanslow also said that along with its Overmountain history, the Alexanders Ford site is also thought to be at least a transit location for native Americans. Tribal archaeologists as well as the National Parks Service is very interested in doing searches on the site, he said.

According to Fanslow, fishery will be important in the Alexander’s Ford park, as will the nature trails. He said the site will possibly have paddling stops along the river, historical re-enactment areas, picnic facilities and a modest parking area.

When botanists went out to survey the property, they were very impressed, Fanslow said, stating that the area is a well designed botanical garden. The property has 11 different communities of outdoor study, Fanslow said, including wet and dry fields, sand bar, alluvial forest and mesic forest communities, just to name a few.

The PARTF money Polk has been awarded will be provided in two sections, $367,877 for land acquisition and $132,123 for park planning. Polk County will have to come up with the $132,000 initially to build the trails and park features, but will be reimbursed for that funding. The county will have one year to build the trails, but it is possible to get an extension if needed.

The county was awarded $221,856 and $52,144 from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund for property acquisition and transaction costs respectively.

The county also was awarded $179,760 and $20,400 from the Natural Heritage Trust Fund for acquisition and transaction costs respectively.

The purchase price of $830,000 will be good through Dec. 31, 2010. County officials say they expect to close prior to that date.