Richfield Town Council to form committee on future of parks

The future of Richfield Park, along with any potential plans for Tyson Park, will soon be discussed by a new committee formed by the town’s commission.

At Monday’s meeting, town commissioners unanimously voted to form a new committee to advise the town about its parks and recreation system.

Zina Risley spoke to the council regarding the formation of the committee to form a 10-year plan for Richfield Park and explore the creation of a 20-year plan for Tyson.

The new committee, Risley said, “would present those recommendations to the Board of Commissioners to improve, review, modify, approve or not approve and send us back to the drawing board.”

She said the Richfield commissioners could disband the committee if they so chose.

She presented two funding options for the town parks system, including the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) and the Accessibility for Parks Grant Program. The first, she said, matches a town’s money on a dollar-for-dollar basis, while the accessibility grant matches $5 for each dollar spent by a municipality.

Risley made suggestions about who should serve on the committee, but later the board decided it would name the members of the committee at the February meeting.

Commissioner Christy NeCaise asked if the committee could be expanded to include roads and beautification, which Risley said it could. Risley said grants for roads and such are awarded by the same grantors as parks and rec.

Mayor Ian Focht asked for public comments from attendees of the meeting regarding the new committee. Gail Kirk said she thought a parks committee “would be wonderful.”

Rick Russell said a lot of information was “flying around all over the place” about the situation, including whether Richfield needed two parks.

“I would like somehow for us to be truly informed as to what can be done with this park,” Russell said. “I think we need to get all the facts presented to our community.”

“This is the beginning stages of any discussion,” Focht said. “Anything you have heard going around may be just ideas. The point Zina was making was the committee would come together and find out how to improve our parks.”

David Isenhour said he would like to have the answers of what can be done with the parks before the committee forms.

“Personally, tax-wise, I don’t think we need both parks…but if there’s something we find you can do here that you can over there, I’m willing to listen. I’m not going to tell you I’m for it, but I’m willing to listen and keep an open mind,” Isenhour said.

Kevin Almond moved to form a new committee with selections for it coming from commissioners, seconded by NeCaise.

In the discussion on the motion, Commissioner Barry Byrd said he was on the town’s commission when Tyson Park was given to the town.

At the time the land was given, he said, Richfield could not afford to keep up the existing Richfield Park off U.S. Highway 52.

However, Byrd said the town is going to grow and “not always going to be 500 or 600 residents.”

He said the town gave up $1.7 million in tax revenue by accepting the land from the Tyson family, but said the land “is there for the future.”

Byrd said the town’s current parks budget is $45,000 and “just about every bit of it” goes to maintaining Richfield Park.

He said the new committee was “an excellent idea” to “see what can be done for Richfield Park.”

Regarding the new park, though, Byrd asked the crowd by a show of hands how many would be willing for their Richfield property taxes to be tripled for a new park, as he said Richfield Park is “growing into bad disrepair.”

Risley said the committee would provide the town commission with “multiple options” and said the town needs to “have flexibility to consider all scenarios.”

Byrd said the majority of the people who use the Richfield Park ball fields and facilities are not Richfield residents.

Focht noted the board has the final say regarding Richfield Park and the Tyson land; he also said the committee was just “exploratory.”

“At the end of the day, the committee doesn’t make the decision; the commissioners do.”