The West Pinehurst Community Park is marked by a formal sign, a port-a-potty, a disc golf layout and a walking trail, but not much else. Activity for anyone who stumbles across the 75-acre site off Chicken Plant Road in west Pinehurst would best be described as “passive recreation.”
The village had the foresight 20 years ago to buy the tract, seeing that at some point demand would grow for more recreational space. They weren’t wrong, then, but unfortunately a lot of other demands grew as well over that time.
Originally designed for seasonal residents and resort guests, the village and its infrastructure have had to play catch-up over the last 20 years as Pinehurst grew to become Moore County’s largest municipality. Serving what is now more than 17,000 residents meant investing in key services like police, firefighters, trash collection and other government services.
As development pushes out Linden Road and Lake Pinehurst, the needs of west side residents are rising up. The village has its eye on a third fire station to serve the area, and the passive park off Chicken Plant Road is getting new attention from the Village Council and its staff.
But a consultant’s study — and ensuing council discussion — left more questions than answers.
Finally, a Plan?
Recreation hasn’t exactly taken a back seat. After years of planning and back-and-forth discussions, the village in 2019 finally funded and constructed a new community center next to its popular Cannon Park within the core village. And the council has made other investments over the years in sidewalks, its popular Cannon and Rassie Wicker parks and other recreational opportunities.
Earlier this year, the village hired a consultant to spend several months getting community feedback and crafting a vision for a “developed” West Pinehurst Community Park.
The consultants did as asked and came back with a $5.4 million, two-phase plan.
A first phase would add two “flex” fields in the northwest corner, parking, a shelter with restrooms, a playground and paved greenway path for about $3.5 million. A second phase would include another multipurpose field for soccer and lacrosse, 2 acres of dog parks, nature trails and expanded parking and paved walking paths for about $2 million.
As for that community input? Surveys returned high interest in a skate park, swimming and a place for community gatherings — none of which are featured in the proposed plan.
The consultants, fouling their own work, suggested that residents could have gamed the survey by taking it multiple times. So, they just discounted the input, especially the pool idea, something deemed such a huge need in the community that the Pinehurst Resort — seeing a business opportunity to sell memberships — built a family pool complex.
Not So Fast ...
The Village Council is clearly divided. Council members Judy Davis and Kevin Drum believe the village should adhere to its 2011 and 2019 visions and have recreation opportunities closer to westside residents rather than have them drive across town to Cannon Park.
Then there’s Councilwoman Jane Hogeman, who raised the question of ongoing costs for park staffing and operation, especially in light of other competing priorities.
“All of these are multi-million-dollar items. We’re already looking at borrowing, we’re already looking at increasing taxes,” she said. “I think we need to take a look at this cost aspect for this whole visionary project in the context of everything else the village has to do.”
We’ve said in this space that Pinehurst has many needs on its horizon. Everyone recognizes not everything can be done at the same time. But Village Manager Jeff Sanborn had it right when he told the council that “we need to define what the end result is so we can start to pick away at it over time.”
This property has sat on the village’s books for 20 years. It’s past time to figure out what to do with it.