The Raleigh City Council will consider a draft plan with $106 million in park projects Tuesday, including upgrades to more than a dozen playgrounds across the city.
The projects come from a proposed system plan for the city's parks, developed with input from more than 5,400 residents. Park officials approved the plan in April and moved it forward to council. While the money would pay for some land acquisition and new parks, about 70 percent would go toward fixing and improving what already exists.
"It's not a lot of new parks," said Stephen Bentley, superintendent of the city's parks, recreation and cultural resources department. "It's reinvestment in our current park system."
Park supporters hope council members will eventually approve a bond referendum to pay for the improvements, but don't necessarily expect them to approve the full $106 million. At a work session last month, Bentley offered scenarios that would cover $38 million, $62 million and $88 million in projects.
"We recognize it is a large list," he said.
The $106 million includes $56 million in park and facility improvements; $7.5 million in cultural site improvements; $15.6 million in greenway acquisition; and $27 million in land acquisition and development.
During the public process, Bentley said city residents pointed out the need to upgrade old, well-used playgrounds and facilities, built 30 or 40 years ago, that don't serve today's needs.
For instance, the city's neighborhood centers at parks such as Eastgate and Kiwanis offer large kitchens. Residents said they would prefer bigger meeting rooms and smaller kitchens. The plan proposes, for instance, reconfiguring buildings such as those.
Bentley said the plan also calls for upgrading aging playgrounds, including the older, wooden ones that still dot the city's parks. Playgrounds on the proposed list for improvements and replacements include the Dixon Drive greenway area; Optimist Community Park; Worthdale Community Park; Kingwood Forest Neighborhood Park; Carolina Pines Community Park; Spring Mini-Park; Chamberlain Street Mini-Park; Jayce Community Center; Powell Drive Neighborhood Park; Lee Street Mini-Park; and Glen Eden Neighborhood Park.
The plan also would infuse a needed $1 million into Laurel Hills Playground off Edwards Mill Road. The Sassafrass Partnership Project, a local group of parents and others, has worked for more than five years to raze the existing playground and build a new one that is accessible for children of all abilities.
Other projects include $12.5 million for Chavis Park, home to one of the city's two carousels, to pay for a new community center and playground, and $8 million for aquatic facility improvements. Check the full, 200-plus page parks plan for details.
It likely will take a month or more for the council to make a final decision on what, if any, projects make the cut. A bond referendum could come in November.
Raleigh currently manages 128 parks, four nature preserves, nine public swimming pools, 47 staff and non-staffed centers, and 104 miles of greenway trails.