Council Workshop on Valdese Lakeside Park

On Tuesday, May 1, a workshop was held for council to learn more about the Valdese Lakeside Park project and funding options. Although the public is not allowed to participate in these workshops, they are welcome to observe. About 40 people were present.

The first presenter was Eric Woolridge of Destination by Design. He covered the park plan, mostly as presented on April 3 to the public, with the addition of the public input from that meeting and a budget for the park.

Continue reading “Council Workshop on Valdese Lakeside Park”

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Look for these signs on Lake Rhodhiss Drive to know where to enter the park for exploration! For more details – see Trails.

Conservation Leadership Round Table

The Land for Tomorrow Foothills Conservation Leadership Round Table was held at the Morganton Community House on Wednesday afternoon, April 18. Foothills Conservancy hosted the event – organized by Land for Tomorrow. The goal was to share information with elected officials about supporting conservation with the theme being

 conservation = rural economic development.

FVR President Beth Heile and Parks Director Doug Knight spoke about how important the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund and Parks and Rec Trust Fund are to small towns based on the experience the town had with the Valdese Lakeside Park (CWMTF and PARTF) and the Downtown Splash Park (PARTF).

Lake James State Park Superintendent Nora Coffey spoke about how important the PARTF funds are to managing the state’s largest park.

The session on Community Benefits included the following speakers –

  • Tourism Impacts – Ed Phillips, Burke Tourism Development Authority
  • Fonta Flora Trail Development – Scott Carpenter, Burke Co. Community Development Dept.
  • Landowner Perspective – Jim Sitts, Landowner
  • Business Perspective – Brad Lail, Hickory City Council
  • Regional Agricultural Development -Andrew Scruggs, Cleveland Co. Cooperative Extension

The following NC Legislators were present and also spoke:

  • Honorable Andy Wells
  • Honorable Josh Dobson
  • Honorable Hugh Blackwell

The event concluded with a tour the Fonta Flora Brewery on the site of the old Whippoorwill dairy and the first farmhouse brewery in Western North Carolina, which adjoins a Clean Water Management Trust Fund project that added 40 acres to Lake James State Park and a hike of that area.

If you would like to support conservation – write to your legislators and tell them to keep giving money to our state’s trust funds or donate to Land for Tomorrow or any of the its groups.

Land for Tomorrow Steering Committee is made up of

The Conservation Fund
Conservation Trust for North Carolina
The Nature Conservancy
North Carolina Recreation and Park Association
North Carolina Wildlife Federation
Blue Ridge Forever
Audubon North Carolina
Triangle Land Conservancy
Catawba Lands Conservancy
American Rivers

Walk/Bike Trails Over I-40

A trail from Valdese Lakeside Park to South Mountains St Park? or to Baker’s Mt? Interstate bridges are being updated – let’s make sure they have pedestrian and bike lanes.

That was the message presented on April 13 to Valdese and Rutherford College Officials by Bryant and Linda Lindsey, at the request of Rep Hugh Blackwell.

Town of Valdese Mayor Chip Black and Town of Rutherford College Mayor Gary McClure discussed a possible loop trail between the 2 towns.

Using large maps, Bryant Lindsey (of Overmountain Victory Trail) showed how state and local parks can be connected – with a little planning. Linda Lindsey talked about meetings held with other groups and the importance of sharing ideas – instead of working in your own little corner.

Town Managers from Valdese (Seth Eckard) and Rutherford College (Kenneth Geathers, Jr.), RC Councilman Annas thought over the possibilities. Valdese and Rutherford College could be the Eastern Gateway to South Mountains State Park. Hugh Blackwell suggested a meeting with DOT.

Draft Master Park Plan Review

Destination by Design has been working on the Master Park Plan for Valdese Lakeside Park since Fall 2017. They have taken input from focus group meetings, site visits, the steering committee and the vibe of Valdese.

The plan was revealed Tuesday evening, April 3, to a crowd of about 50 people. Feedback from the group will be used to tweak the plan for a final presentation to town council on May 1st.

The slide presentation from the evening is available for your review.

Arranging all the features requested by the citizens was the magic provided by DbD in their design. The “core” section of the park includes most of the features – which will promote all ages and all interests to start (and interact) in one area. This nucleus will allow visitors to be exposed to activities they may not see otherwise.

  • Welcome Area
  • Parking Area
  • Restrooms
  • Open Green
  • Large Shelter
  • Picnic Tables
  • Exercise Stations
  • Paved Trails
  • Pump Track
  • Kayak Launch + Pier
  • Dog Park
  • Playground

The park is divided into “activity” sections. When talking with friends about the park, this may give you a common language. For example, the greenway is more than just the out and back – a loop (or more of a trail system) is in the works. Outside of the core, there is mountain biking, disc golf, hiking, an overlook…..

You may ask why this and why that…. or why not this and why not that. Facing project limitations was a part of the design process and often the answer to these questions. The town received a grant from the CWMTF to help pay for the land. With that, comes development restrictions around the lake and creek areas. There is an endangered plant that needs to be protected. On a positive, the CWMTF saw the need for lake access and views and set one area that can have structures close to the water. Slopes of 30% or more impacted what could be done. The amount of money available is a factor. This size park will create a repeat draw from the surrounding region – yet, there is a town budget to consider. Lakeside Park will be a passive park (a park focused on natural settings and preserving nature, not manned, not developed with courts and fields).

An economic impact study was also a part of the presentation. You can review the slides to make your own judgement, but a conservative figure is $900K per year of visitor spending in town. Plus all the benefits to those who live here (health and quality of life) and the current businesses (job attraction).

We hope to have these boards on display at Town Hall soon. This will give you more time to review the plan, or see it for the first time. There will also be comment cards for you to complete.

The design is still in your hands with your comments …. do you want scaled down, inexpensive features? Do you want top of the line? Do you want public art? How about an observation tower? Donations are still being accepted!

Feel free to post comments regarding the park under this post (click the facebook icon).


Ribbon Cutting at Valdese Lakeside Park

Over 80 people gathered at the new 300 acre lakeside property for a ribbon cutting that has been 3 years in the making. It was a perfect day with the temperature around 72 degrees, sunny and a bit windy.

Friends of the Valdese Rec provided trail mix, trail tours and bottled water. Bruce Bingham provided transportation for those unable to walk to the site.

Parks and Rec Director Doug Knight lead the ceremony that included the following speakers

  • Valdese Mayor Chip Black – spoke about the economic impact the park will have on the Town of Valdese.
  • NC Senator Warren Daniel – had written letters of support to grant officials and spoke about how important it is to leave a gift like this land to future generations.
  • NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund – Walter Clark, Director – awarded the $673K grant to help purchase the land.
  • Judy Francis, Recreation Resource Specialist, ‎NC State Parks – helped with the PARTF grant application for $300k
  • Mark Rostan, Rostan Family Foundation – gave examples of how the community is invested in this park and how parks generated revenue for other towns. The RFF donated $300k to the land purchase.
  • Chris Rice, Kellex Seating – a company that is always giving back and all employees are treated like family. Their $100k went to land and amenities.
  • Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge, Drew Thomas – a great partner to the area, $50k will go to park amentities.
  • Michelle Wells, Executive Director of NC Recreation & Park Association (NCRPA)
  • Tom Kenney with Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina helped with the purchase negotiation, the CWMTF grant and general navigation of the process.
  • NC Representative Hugh Blackwell
  • Beth Heile, President of Friends of the Valdese Rec – said that “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)  Because the community “Believed” and did not give up, together we made the land purchase happen. Now, let’s build a park. ” She invited everyone back in 2-3 years for the ribbon cutting for amenities.

Cove Cleanup a Huge Success

On Saturday, March 3 over 65 volunteers gathered at the new Valdese Lakeside Park location for a “cove cleanup” – the first official event at the park. The cove, mainly filled with plastic bottles and Styrofoam from coolers, was not only unsightly, but also harmful to wildlife and water quality.
The cleanup was led the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. The Town of Valdese was concerned about having volunteers tackle this project – in the water with unknown trash under the layer of plastic bottles. Before moving forward with the event, Parks and Rec Director Doug Knight met at the location with Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the Wildlife Federation, to ensure this really was a job volunteers could safely handle. With their mission – to protect, conserve and restore North Carolina wildlife and habitat –  NCWF has plenty of experience in shoreline cleanups and did not hesitate to help. They brought 200 trash bags, gloves, tools, snacks and waters. Most importantly, they brought their expertise in how to proceed.
Friends of the Valdese Rec promoted the event through flyers around town, letters to its memberships and donors, contact with the schools, the newspaper community calendar and its facebook page. People attended from each of the contact methods. One volunteer was pulled in as she was walking the road near the park. 40 attendees were FVR members or park donors, 15 students from DHS and HMS schools (Interact, NHS, Anchor, Track), and the rest from NCWF. The cleanup was completed in 2 hours.
The cleanup was in part because citizens could not stand to see so much pollution on the beautiful property and in part to get ready for the Ribbon Cutting that will be held on March 29 at 1pm on the property. The Town of Valdese provided the trash truck and the final removal of bagged trash from the park. The majority of items removed from the lake were bottles and cans that were sorted to be recycled.
From the NCWF, present were Dr. Bob Brown, Board Chair, Cary and his wife Regan along with board members John Fuller and Snyder Garrison of Hickory and the Federation’s outreach organizer, Tara Moore. NCWF is using this first project to form a wildlife chapter for Lake Rhodhiss as Lakes James, Norman and Wylie already have active groups working for wildlife and habitat. If you are interested in getting involved with the chapter contact Tara Moore at or (704) 332-5696.

Disc Golf Designer Visits

John and Dee Houck of Houck Designs came from Texas to Valdese for a two day visit. They started Thursday morning at Old World Baking Company meeting with FVR President Beth Heile and Destination by Design principal Eric Woolridge. They learned a little about how the park project came to be, about Valdese and about where the disc golf course would fit at Valdese Lakeside Park.

From there, Eric and John spent a rainy day on the property exploring the potential. John is the designer of the #1,#2, #7 & #17 ranked disc golf courses in the world. It will be exciting to hear what he thinks can be done at the Valdese site.

Later that evening, Dee and John joined local disc golfers and FVR members at 100 Main for drinks.  Plenty of discussion on disc golf in general, professional courses and Valdese.

On Friday morning, a presentation was made to Town of Valdese employees, councilmen, FVR members and disc golfers. Dee and John covered disc golf – the sport and economic impact it has on a community and what they saw for the Valdese course. They suggested 2 courses on the property, but we several courses in Burke County, we may just go with one course.