No equestrian trails allowed

Published 8:00 am Thursday, June 21, 2018

Polk asking grantor to change covenants on 300 acres

MILL SPRING — Polk County has been granted 300 acres adjacent to the middle school in order to place a walking and biking trail system, but required covenants and restrictions would mean no equestrian trails would be allowed.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and tabled a decision to approve the proposed declaration of covenants and restrictions in order to see if equestrian trails could be added in the future.

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Polk County Recreation Director Jerry Stensland said 600 acres are planned to go back into North Carolina game lands. In order to strengthen its grant, the county’s proposed 300 acres was used for a Clean Water Management grant. The grant comes with covenants and restrictions.

Conserving Carolina purchased the former Foster Creek Preserve, a planned subdivision that fell through years ago, with over 1,000 acres. Conserving Carolina plans for 300 of the acres to be given to Polk County for the trail system that borders its property at the middle school, 600 acres to be used to expand the game lands and approximately 30 acres to be used for Workforce Housing.

The county was awarded a North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant last year for part of the purchase of its 300 acres, with the match coming from discounts in the property purchase. The county is acquiring the 300 acres at no cost.

County attorney Jana Berg said Monday that Conserving Carolina received a grant from the Clean Water Management Trust, with the covenants running with the land. Berg said the county can develop its land for walking, hiking, fishing, bike riding, etc., but cannot do certain things, such as clear cut trees, permit motor vehicles other than for maintenance or equestrian trails.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson asked why horses would not be allowed.

Berg said she cannot be certain, but she supposes to protect the streams on the property since it is a water quality grant.

County Manager Marche Pittman asked if this is something the county could negotiate.

“In my experience, if you want something different, you should probably do it from the beginning,” Berg said, adding that it would be difficult to do an amendment.

Gasperson said there are a large number of properties in the county that are conserved for equestrian use, naming FETA and CETA trails, but there are not public trails.

“We don’t have any specific public trails, and that may be a need in the future,” Gasperson said.

Stensland said in his experience, 300 acres would not be large enough to have multiple uses, such as equestrian, hiking and biking trails.

Gasperson said the county may not be able to project what future properties could tie into this and he does not want to “shut the door.”

Pittman also asked that verbiage for public safety vehicles be placed as an exemption in the covenants. Pittman said emergency vehicles will need access in case someone is injured on the trails, so public safety officials do not have to walk in and carry them out.

Commissioners tabled approval of the proposed covenants and restrictions pending the negotiation of possible future equestrian trails and public safety response.