University City has gained a key piece of future parkland. Mecklenburg County recently bought 33.4 acres on the future Eastern Circumferential Road, within walking distance of hundreds of homes and student housing. The tract will likely become a neighborhood park and Back Creek Greenway hub, predicts Deputy Parks Director Michael Kirschman.
“We really like this property for a number of reasons,” Kirschman said. “It fits all the criteria for neighborhood parks. They are typically between two and 20 acres and near a lot of residents. We try to get people access to recreational amenities within a 10-minute walk or half-mile radius, and there will be a lot of people who can get to this park from the greenway or neighborhoods.”
Several neighborhoods and Back Creek Presbyterian Church already lie within that range. When the future Eastern Circumferential Road opens to University City Boulevard, the park will also be within a quarter mile walk of hundreds of off-campus student housing units and three-quarters mile from the campus itself.
What the park may have
Neighborhood parks typically have playgrounds, picnic shelters, basketball and tennis courts and possibly a fitness zone or community garden. They generally don’t have athletic fields or public restrooms or even parking lots, since most of the park’s users live nearby.
“I think this one will be different and could have a parking lot, because it could be a good access point for people wanting to hop onto the Back Creek Greenway,” Kirschman said.
Back Creek Greenway a key part of project
Several thousand people already live along the future path of the Back Creek Greenway, with new housing going up at the Back Creek Villages and The Farms on Rocky River Road. The greenway will someday provide a way for those residents to walk or bike safely all the way to the Reedy Creek Nature Preserve on Rocky River Road.
The greenway project will benefit greatly from this land purchase, a staff report to the County Board says.
“The County currently owns a number of parcels along Back Creek from Rocky River Road to the County line. Purchase of this property will continue the County’s effort to obtain ownership of floodplain property along the creek with the goal of eventually building walking and biking trails along the creek while preserving as much of the property in its natural state as possible.
Parks take many years to go from vision to reality. “Getting the land is step one,” Kirschman said. The county paid $2.475 million for the land, which had belonged to a developer of the Back Creek Villages.
Developing the park and greenway will require capital improvement money, and that has all been allocated for other projects through 2019, Kirschman said.
The good news is that the process for creating the next capital improvement plan will begin late next year. County departments will go through their wish lists and set priorities, which will then go to the County Board for final OK.
Patience will be helpful. “I don’t want anyone to think the park is going in now,” Kirschman said. “We are always planning 10 years out and planning for the future.”
What is the Eastern Circumferential Road?
Even though Charlotte voters approved funding for its construction last fall, most people probably have not heard of this major future highway. The road will start where Mallard Creek Church Road now ends at University City Boulevard and run parallel to I-485 for several miles.
Construction should start in the next couple of years on the first leg, from University City Boulevard to Back Creek Church Road just north of John Russell Road.
The state railroad project that is adding dual tracks to the NC Railroad corridor includes funding to carry the future highway across the tracks. Charlotte will then build the next 2-mile leg.
As currently shown on planning maps, the road will continue south along Back Creek Church Road to Rocky River Road and then cut through the Reedy Creek Nature Preserve.
• Learn about the Eastern Circumferential Road