Polk applies for N.C. PARTF grant to purchase 300 acres for trails

Published 10:00 pm Friday, April 28, 2017

COLUMBUS – The Polk County Board of Commissioners approved applying for a N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant in the amount of $375,000 in order for the county to purchase 300 acres adjacent to the county recreation park to construct hiking and biking trails.

Commissioners met Tuesday, April 25 and held a public hearing in order to apply for the grant but no residents spoke.

Polk County Recreation Director Jerry Stensland said the grant would pay for the purchase of 300 acres and will be essentially no cost to the county. The application for the grant is to be awarded $375,000 and the match to the grant will come from a discounted sales price compared to its market value of the property. Stensland said the match amounts to over $700,000 in discounts on the property purchase.

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If the grant is awarded and the county purchases the property, additional grants will be sought to construct the trails, Stensland said. Stensland also said he sees picnic areas on the property as well.

“My goal is to do that without any taxpayer money on the development costs,” Stensland said.

The Polk County Recreation Department is attempting to purchase the 300 acres, which is adjacent to the county’s recreation complex off Wolverine Trail in Mill Spring. Stensland has said the property is perfect for additional recreational opportunities because the county already has adequate parking and restrooms at the recreation complex to access the trails. Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), which recently merged with the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC), purchased the former Foster Creek Preserve, which was a planned housing development that fell through years ago, located off Hwy. 108 and Houston Road in Columbus.

CMLC recently held a public meeting to get input on what local residents want to see happen on the 1,000-plus acres CMLC purchased. Stensland said the consensus from residents was that hiking and biking trails are desired on the county’s potential 300 acres of the property.

Other plans for CMLC’s project include approximately 30 acres being developed by workforce housing, which is a program for working families to help build their own homes to make them more affordable. Some of the property could also be used as state game lands with better access, since the property borders existing game lands.

The PARTF grant is due May 1 with the state scheduled to award the grants this fall.

If approved, the county plans to purchase the property at the first of 2018. Once constructed, the trails will be maintained by volunteers under the direction of the county’s AmeriCorps trails coordinator.