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story.lead_photo.caption Tom (left) and Casey Brennan of Fayetteville talk with Alison Jumper Thursday Aug. 4, 2016 about the Gulley Park Master Plan before the final Gulley Park Concert of the season. - Photo by J.T. Wampler

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Parks and Recreation Department unveiled three options last week for a proposed master plan at Gulley Park. The city is looking for public comment on the options.

Nothing is set because funding hasn't been designated for any of it, said Alison Jumper, park planning superintendent.

This will be the second round of public comment, Jumper said.

"The plans are still malleable," Jumper said. "Just because they're shown there -- if we get significant feedback that says, 'No way, we don't want that!' then we'll go back to the drawing board, basically."

The project will be done in phases, with the money coming from a mix of general improvement funding, grants and private donations, said Ken Eastin, a city park planner.

A final master plan will be taken to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for approval. The improvements could be finished within the next two to three years, Eastin said.

The city bought an adjoining 10 acres northwest of the existing 28-acre park in 2014. The Friends of Gulley Park group helped with the $1.1 million purchase.

Perhaps the most notable feature about Gulley Park's expansion and renovation will be the inclusion of the city's first splash pad. In March, park staff held a public input session, during which a majority of residents stressed a desire for a splash pad and a dog park, among other amenities.

Currently, dogs can run around at Iams Dog Park at Bryce Davis Park, and Lake Wilson is an off-leash park.

Placement of the splash pad is the key difference among the three options.

Option No. 1 would put the pad in the southwest corner of the park, near a playground. Option No. 2 puts the splash pad just to the east of that, with an additional pavilion nearby. Option No. 3 has it closer to the middle, in between a paved trail and pavilion with a grill area.

Other new features would include the dog park to the west, native boulder seating for the concert pavilion, renovation of existing ponds and added parking.

Opinions varied from people who viewed renderings of the three options Thursday night during Gulley Park's last concert of its 20th season, but one theme remained consistent: Keep Gulley free and open, full of natural beauty.

Tom and Casey Brennan were among the first to take a look at the options.

"One of my favorite things about Gulley Park is that it's really quiet and there's a lot of open space," Casey Brennan said. "Developing the perimeter is a lot more of what I'd like to see."

Cheryl Ross-O'Reilly and her husband, Mark O'Reilly, initially thought having the splash pad next to the playground would be a good idea, then thought it might be better elsewhere for safety reasons. The couple's home is just east of the park, and increased foot traffic with the expanded trail concerned them.

Having the natural barrier of trees in between the park and their neighborhood was a welcomed feature, they said.

Some concertgoers Thursday weren't sure about the dog park, even though park staff members have said it was among the most popular recommendations during the public input session in March.

Kathy Spigarelli and Caroline Decker, two neighbors who live next to the southwest edge of the park, said they're both self-described dog lovers but that a dog park wasn't a good fit in the proposed location.

"We want a dog park, but that section over there -- we're afraid it's just going to ruin the landscape and it's just going to become a dust bowl," Decker said.

Faron LeGarde and his wife, Cassie, favor the dog park. LeGarde envisioned taking the family's Boston terrier from their nearby home to the park.

"There's so much beautiful land here, and people are here with their dogs all the time," he said. "It's hard to let them interact safely because a lot of people want them to be unleashed, but you want to follow the leash law. But if we had a place to let the dog run free and play while we're doing family time, that would be fantastic."

The added land would remain mostly an open prairie meadow with its pond near a community orchard.

Two houses on Old Wire Road were part of the land deal. The city sold one of the houses late last year to a family for $111,500. The other sold for $200,000 to the nonprofit group Apple Seeds, which seeks to educate children about healthy eating through gardening and cooking.

Incorporated in the deal with Apple Seeds was a 20-year lease for 2 acres at the northern tip of the site, which the nonprofit group will use as a teaching farm for children. Apple Seeds moved an office into the Old Wire house after the city granted it a conditional-use permit.

Mary Thompson, co-director of Apple Seeds, said she's excited to see the goals of the nonprofit group coincide with those of the city to make a better park for everyone.

"The whole master plan reflects what the community has been asking for," she said. "This is going to provide a new point in the park that will be very unique from the other parks and what they have."

Not everyone is as enthusiastic about what's been happening at Gulley Park.

Michael Langford, a 40-year Fayetteville resident who owns a home just north of the Apple Seeds office, questioned the city's motivations for selling the house to Apple Seeds and providing the 2 acres for the teaching garden.

There was little public notice when the house went up for sale, Langford said, and there are other entities that could have benefited.

"This is not about broccoli," Langford said. "This is about privilege."

Metro on 08/08/2016

Print Headline: Splash pad, area for dogs in Fayetteville park plans

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