Town adopts Plan for Morse Park - Called the 'Crown Jewel' of our Park System

REVIEW ALL THE PLAN DOCUMENTS:

The process & background behind the Morse Park Plan:

Centered in the heart of Lake Lure is the jewel of the town's public park system - Morse Park, a relatively small and serenely beautiful footprint of a space primarily located along the water's edge.

Whether it is bird watching, basketball, or a leisurely bicycle ride, one thing is certain: because of the multiple ways in which to enjoy it, along with its stellar backdrop of the Rumbling Bald Mountain Range, the park is gaining in popularity with each passing year.

As needs, plans and ideas emerged during the town's Capital Improvement Plan process in early 2017, several of the ideas focused on Morse Park and its future.

Some of those ideas included permanent public restrooms, improved tennis and pickle ball courts, additional picnic facilities, a sports field and an outdoor stage.

As a result, the town-appointed Parks & Recreation Board concluded it was time for a recreation plan that focused squarely on Morse Park.

Taking a Step Back to Move Forward:

To create the most effective plan, the board first established some baseline criteria. They wanted a plan that:

      • Could be carried into 2027
      • Included recommendations from past planning documents
      • Incorporated new input from residents, stakeholders and visitors
      • Located the best place in Morse Park for public restrooms and for those restrooms to be constructed within the next twelve months

“The expedited time frame for the construction of the restrooms is in preparation for the September 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon,” said Parks & Recreation Board Chairman, Jim Walters. The games, located less than 20 minutes from Lake Lure, are expected to make a significant regional impact. 

A Process of Gathering & Compiling Old & New Information::

Earlier this summer Town Council voted to fund creation of the plan and approved two consultants to carry out the process. They also dedicated $94,000 toward the design and construction of the restrooms. Vital Clarity, a facilitation firm, was utilized to gather and prioritize past and new information while Equinox Environmental, a landscape architecture firm will produce the plan’s design elements.

The Study Area:

In keeping with the desires by the Parks & Recreation Board, the first order of business was to create a survey to gauge how people are currently using the park and how they wish to experience it in the future. 

An eight-question survey was widely distributed between July 25th and August 15th. 

“We were happy to receive over 500 responses,” said Shannon Baldwin, the town’s Director of Community Development. "Working with the Morse Park work group and the Parks and Recreation Board, it was an exciting process to see new ideas evolve into design," he said.

With regard to how individuals and event organizers would like to see the park best utilized, quite a few common themes emerged between the recommendations from past plan documents and the preferences stated in the 2017 survey responses.

Some of the most recommended facilities that emerged included, (in no particular order):

      • A stage or band shell for large events and gatherings
      • A group shelter or pavilion for small group gatherings
      • A kayak and canoe launch site to expand lake access
      • Restroom facilities, (in progress at the Lake Lure Welcome Center)
      • More open space to accommodate festivals and events
      • A small pedestrian bridge across the lake channel near the gazebo

In the fall of 2017, Equinox Environmental presented the Parks & Recreation Board with two concept plans for review. From there a final draft was selected by the board and made available online between Nov. 3rd and Nov. 14th.  

During that same time, the public was again invited to provide any additional comments and input either through email comments, phone calls or in the Nov. 14th, 2017 Public Hearing.

Following the Public Hearing, Town Council unanimously adopted the Morse Park Plan.

To fund the identified projects within the plan, town staff will apply for grants through potential funding agencies where such projects are a good fit.