Community working together to make something happen was the theme of Friends of the Valdese Rec’s Celebration Friday, Nov 3rd.
The reception was held to thank all those involved with helping the Town of Valdese acquire 300 acres of land on Lake Rhodhiss for a passive park. Though the primary partners in this 2.5 year project are Friends of the Valdese Rec, Town of Valdese and Foothills Conservancy of NC, it has taken the help and support of many people and organizations along the way. Each speaker during the evening touched on the importance of community involvement that led to the success of getting to $1.4 million (in grants and donations) to purchase the land.
The program included remarks from Valdese Mayor Chip Black who spoke about the economic impact the park would have on the area. He noted Valdese Lakeside Park was in line with the strategies recently released in the WPCOG’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. Mayor Black was first approached by Beth Heile and Roy Sweezy in February 2015, just a few weeks after being appointed mayor, to ask for his support for the project.
Representative Hugh Blackwell, who was thanked for writing letters of support to the grant officials, stated he was impressed with what a community working together could accomplish.
Major donor Chris Rice, Kellex President, said he made the decision to support the park project after he attended a town luncheon in February 2017. With several members of the Kellex family present for the celebration, Mr. Rice talked about how the completed park would help with recruitment of talented staff and that it was the right thing to do for Kellex’s local workforce, the citizens of Valdese and the environment.
Recruitment was also a reason Carolinas HealthCare System BlueRidge COO Jon Mercer stated for the hospital’s backing of the park. Key factors also included, their goal of working to create healthy citizens and following their slogan of Friends and Neighbors taking care of Friends and Neighbors.
In addition to politicians and donors, professionals in the field of conservation shared their thoughts on the project. Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina’s Tom Kenney played a major role in guiding the Town and FVR through the land acquisition. He helped design a funding plan, negotiated the purchase contract and wrote the Clean Water Trust Fund Management Grant that provided $673,247. From the beginning, Tom was impressed with the beauty of the property and the long view down Lake Rhodhiss to Table Rock.
Damon Hearn, Western Field Representative of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund Grant traveled from Asheville for the event. He said he has never seen a community work so hard together and it showed Valdese really wanted the park land. His team felt this project was perfect for funding with the recreational opportunities that will be available for the region.
Doug Knight, Valdese Parks and Recreation Director, thanked organizations such as FVR, Town Council, Grant Officials and specifically noted the Rostan Family Foundation. The Foundation continues to give back to make our community better with the recent Valdese Family Splash Park and now Valdese Lakeside Park.
Beth Heile, Friends of the Valdese Rec spoke about what is next in the process. She said even though we have worked hard to reach this major milestone, we can’t stop now. We must continue to raise money for amenities and find ways to complete Valdese Lakeside Park by Fall 2020. The urgency is the take advantage of new jobs coming to the area (NCSSM opening in 2021, Continental’s 160 new jobs over next 5 years, Meridan’s 25 new jobs over 5 years, the new Kellex Hogan Street factory will add 35-50 associates) and be a prime choice for that workforce’s home. Studies show people like to live near greenspace and with 300 acres, Valdese will have that to offer.
Mrs. Heile said the master park plan is under way by Destination by Design. In March, those who have donated to the park will be able to review a draft and make suggestions. Prices of features will be included to show how items could be added in phases or how it may be more cost effective to add everything at once. Proposed features include a 2-mile trail connecting McGalliard Falls Park to future picnic area near Wastewater Treatment Plant with exercise stations and benches, mountain bike trails and pump track, disc golf course, kayak launch, picnic area, dock for views and fishing, outdoor classroom.
The evening was not all presentations. A social started the event with hors d’oeuvres, punch and wine made by FVR members and friends. During the social, a slide show thanking people and aerial footage of the park by Tony Glenn were shown. The décor was an outdoor theme – with log slices, sedum, pine cones, leaves and moss as centerpieces and throughout. Door prizes were given at the end of the evening.
On the wall, paper leaves around trees acknowledged the donors. Along with the large pledges for the land from Rostan Family Foundation ($300,000) and Kellex ($100,000), CHS-BR has pledged $50,000 for park amenities. When you include the amount of donations from 70 individuals, $100,000 has been raised so for for amenities. Again, this shows the community working together to make something happen.
If you would like to donate to Valdese Lakeside Park amenities, visit the group’s web site for the form to mail in or the Paypal link.
The purpose of Friends of the Valdese Rec, an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit corporation, is to support the Valdese Parks and Recreation Department with volunteer hours and fundraising for the betterment of the Department, while at the same time benefiting the town, the citizens and the environment. Board members are Beth Heile, Roy Sweezy, Mark Rostan, Sandy Terrell, Don Brittain, Sonni Dyer and Andy Byers.