(March 2019) The driving force in starting Friends of the Valdese Rec (FVR) was to acquire 300 acres of land at Lake Rhodhiss between the Wastewater Plant and McGalliard Falls and construct a park with trails, kayak launch, disc golf, playground and picnic areas. Closing on the property was Jan 31, 2018 (Ribbon Cutting in March). Now, we are working to build the park!
The following history covers the forming of the group and major events relevant to Valdese Lakeside Park. It does not cover all FVR workdays, programs, events, talks to groups and meetings that have taken place since April 2015. (See about for a general list.)
Beth Heile started the Friends of the Valdese Rec Facebook page on February 6, 2015. The next week, she and Roy Sweezy met with the new Town of Valdese Mayor, Chip Black, to discuss of idea of acquiring 300 acres on Lake Rhodhiss for a passive park for Valdese; and a Friends of the Valdese Rec Interest Meeting was held. The Town of Valdese Parks and Recreation Plan by WPCOG with community surveys references a park on Lake Rhodhiss.
In March, Beth presented at the Town Council meeting that Friends of the Valdese Rec was organizing and would be pursuing the acquisition of the land. Later in the month, FVR members met with Town Manager Jeff Morse to discuss the process and at another member meeting started discussing features of the park.
April 1, 2015 – The official FVR Organizational Meeting was held to appoint the board, approve by-laws, etc. Original board members present: Beth Heile, Roy Sweezy, Don Brittain, Sandy Terrell, Sonni Dyer, Mark Rostan. Beth attended the April Council Meeting to keep them informed.
On April 14, the FVR Board met with Don Reid of Crescent Land (owner of the 300 acres) to discuss the land acquisition. Jeff Morse, Chip Black and Doug Knight were in attendance. The meeting did not go as hoped and the next week Jeff and Beth met with Foothills Conservancy of NC for advice.
At the June 1 Council Meeting, the council approved a contract with Foothills Conservancy to help with the process. This included negotiating with Crescent Land and an appraisal was part of that. FVR raised $2650 for the Land Appraisal during the month. Two FVR Info Meetings were held in September to gather feedback from community.
By November, a Valdese Lakeside Park Plan created by FVR was available to explain details of park (location, parcel size, future amenities – hike, bike, kayak, fish, disc golf, picnic, etc) and why Valdese needed the park. Covering conservation, economic impact and enjoyment of the community – the plan was helpful in generating interest in the acquisition. Later in the month, it was confirmed Crescent sold the land out from under us and FVR returned appraisal donations.
Foothills Conservancy continued to work on the project and in January 2016 the new property owner agreed to sell the property to the town. FVR again raised money to pay for the appraisal to be used in negotiations ($2500 in June). Once there was an offer in place (contingent on the town receiving 2 state grants), Friends of the Valdese Rec started fundraising for the land purchase.
In December, 2016, the Rostan Family Foundation pledged $300K to the Valdese Lakeside Park project, if all other funding was acquired. Using the land purchase plan created by Foothills Conservancy ($1M state grants, $365K community donations), our first goal was $100K to help with the purchase of the land and some amenities. The entire $100K was covered by Kellex in a meeting on Feb 16, 2017.
That success was immediately announced and the goal changed to $150K+ for amenities (park plan, greenway, trails, kayak launch, disc golf, fishing pier, picnic area, rest rooms, parking, etc). FVR requested “pledges” (Pledge Request Sheet Used) until the town received the Clean Water Grant and the PARTF grant to purchase the property (pledges due Dec 1, if grants awarded). In April, it was announced CHS-BR pledged $50K to the project.
September 2017 brought the great news that the town received both grants needed.
In September, a Scope of Services document was created for Destination by Design (DbD) to develop the master park plan. At the October Council Meeting, the contract was approved with the town and FVR splitting the cost of the plan.
FVR planned a November 3, 2017 Celebration inviting all pledgers and the community to celebrate the success. Every pledge was paid – 100% who said they would donate did – knowing their donations were going to amenities. Donor List
Public Input Meetings for park amenities input started in November, 2017
11/14/17 Disc Golf Meeting – 1st Meeting with FVR
11/17/17 Town of Valdese Department Heads with DbD
11/30/17 Mountain Bikers Mtg – 1st Meeting with FVR
12/05/17 Park Amenity Public Input Meeting
01/08/18 Rec Commission Meeting combined with Runner Input on Park
01/10/18 DbD Meeting with Disc Golfers – General Public Invited to learn more
01/10/18 DbD Meeting with Mountain Bike
03/29/18 Ribbon Cutting at Property – Public Invited
Since closing on the property, Friends of the Valdese Rec has marked and mapped existing trails and has been maintaining them with monthly park workdays. A picnic area with four tables has also been added. Monthly group walks along the greenway have helped people become more familiar with the park. FVR has also hosted group trail runs, a beginner mountain biking day, National Trail Day events, Tails & Trails (walks on the greenway with your dog). It is our mission to get people outdoors and to enjoy the beautiful asset that Valdese Lakeside Park is.
In May, with the property in hand and a completed Draft Master Park Plan, DbD started working with FVR and the town to formulate a grant strategy for amenities. Once the plan was finished in July, FVR increased the fundraising goal to $200K to match grants that would be applied for starting in December 2018.
07/09/18 Public Q&A Session with Doug Knight – how amenities will be built at Valdese Lakeside Park using grants and donations from the community
March 13, 2019 – Public Input Meeting to Town regarding grant applications for 2019
May, 2019 – The Town received an Award Letter from NC DEQ Water Resources announcing the receipt of a $200K grant for 4000 linear feet of greenway, permeable parking and storm water control. This is $200K to match our donors’ $200K to start a 10 ft wide crushed cinder greenway along Lake Rhodhiss and McGalliard Creek.
August, 2019 – The Town received a $285K PARTF Grant is for restrooms, picnic area, dog park, wildlife viewing platform, kayak launch, walking trail to viewing platform, parking, entry road at Valdese Lakeside Park. The DEQ awarded grant and community donations will cover the match.
Pending – Recreational Trails Program Grant – Requesting $100K to match $25K from community – This grant is to help pay for a bridge across McGalliard Creek to complete the trail from McGalliard Falls Park to Valdese Lakeside Park – creating a 2-mile greenway connecting the parks. Total cost of the bridge is $200K.
To date (10/5/2019) – for appraisal to start purchase negotiations, land purchase and amenities
Private Donations: $651,957
Total Project: $2,110,204
Breakdown of Private Donations: $430,000 Foundations, $8100 Civic Clubs, $155,000 Larger Companies, $5900 Small Businesses, $52,957 Individuals
To date (10/05/2019) – Volunteer hours at VLP after January 31, 2018 closing (not promotional events, just work)
2018: 330 hours
2019: 299 hours