The Polk County Parks and Recreation Department recently announced that it has received a grant of $336,000 for land purchase, new trails at Little White Oak Mountain, and several improvements to the Polk County Recreation Complex.
Governor Roy Cooper recently announced that the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) would award more than $5 million in grants to fund 14 local parks and recreation projects across the state. The North Carolina Parks and Recreation Authority approved the grants at its meeting held on Sept. 24 via conference call. The Parks and Recreation Trust Fund is administered through the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
The Polk County PARTF grant that was chosen for funding is deemed Phase 1 of the Little White Oak Mountain Project and will provide the means to build several miles of mountain biking trails, an outdoor classroom, a bike repair station, trailside picnic area, cornhole/horseshoe pits and install new playground equipment.
“We are extremely excited to break ground to make these plans a reality,” said Laura Baird, interim director of Polk County Parks and Recreation. “The Little White Oak Mountain Trail Network is the perfect example of the kind of collaboration that makes this region special. We’d like to thank Conserving Carolina, the Polk County Community Foundation, and everyone else who has given their time and resources to the design and funding of this project.”
The project was described as follows in the grant application:
The application for the first phase of the Little White Oak Mountain Trail Network will fund the construction of the first 5.41 miles of the trails. The first phase of the trails will be built on land that connects the existing Polk County Recreation Complex and Polk County Middle School. With these two user groups in mind, the proposed project will include two picnic areas and an outdoor classroom that will be available for anyone to use to brush up on their outdoor education.
Polk County would also install a bike repair station, renovate the nearby playground to better accommodate users of all abilities, refinish the restrooms, and install a new cornhole and horseshoe station. In addition to these amenities and the trail construction, this funding will allow Polk County to purchase 140 acres of land from Conserving Carolina that connects the Little White Oak Mountain property to the new workforce housing complex.
Future phases of the Little White Oak Mountain Trail Network will expand the project to its full 10-mile length and build a greenway to connect with the housing complex.
“The local parks and recreation projects funded by these grants are especially important this year as the public use of parks, trails, and greenways has increased during the pandemic,” Gov. Cooper said. “These projects will give families additional healthy options to get active and outdoors close to home.”
Baird said the grant stipulates that funding be used in three years, so the construction will begin probably late winter/early spring and be completed by the end of 2024.
Local communities applied for the grants to fund land acquisition, development and renovation of public park and recreation areas. Each year, the Authority is required to allocate 30 percent of PARTF’s total funding to local government projects.
The N.C. Parks and Recreation Authority considered 58 local grant applications requesting $19.3 million in total. The maximum grant awarded for a single project was $500,000. Awardees must match funds dollar-for-dollar for the awarded amount.
“These grants will help communities across our state provide outdoor recreation opportunities that improve physical and mental health, enhance quality of life, and strengthen local economies,” said D. Reid Wilson, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Baird said that she has also applied for a $100,000 Recreational Trails Program (“RTP”) grant to allow the department to finish the project quickly and sustainably.” The county will find out later this year if it has been awarded that grant.