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New park coming to city

January 31, 2011

Conover received a grant valued at more than $400,000 to help the city make improvements to a tract of land near Conover Station.

The Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant will help city officials engineer a stormwater wetland on Conover Station's southern end. Once the wetland is completed, it will become Conover Station Park, which increases the city's park acreage by nearly 50 percent and serves the city's only quadrant not currently benefitting from a park.

"Park space for both active and passive recreation are important to our citizens," said Conover Mayor Lee Moritz Jr. "This was clearly identified during several public workshops."

Conover Station is a mixed-use commercial development currently under construction on the old Broyhill Furniture site in the city. While majority of the property will be used for commercial opportunities, a piece of land on the property's southern end wasn't suitable for development.

According to Conover planning director Lance Hight, the land is part of a low-lying drainage area near the headwaters of McLin Creek. But instead of leaving the area untouched, Hight and other city leaders decided to utilize the land as a water-treatment area and preserve it for park space.

"That lower portion always seemed very park-like from the very beginning," Hight said.

Conover has 12 park acres within the city, and Conover Station Park will add almost six more acres to the city's

The city applied for the Clean Water grant in late 2008, but they didn't receive a response for about two years.

"We just kind of assumed it was one of those grants that we applied for and didn't get," Hight said.

But that wasn't the case. Hight said grant funding was put on hold because of a tight state budget, but funding is now available after more than two years of waiting.

City officials received word in October that their grant application was approved for up to $415,719.

The city contributed grant matching funds valued at $153,485, which is the estimated value of what will be the Conover Station Park. Hight said the property value was used as matching funds because, by developing the property as storm-water wetlands, the city forfeited the opportunity to use the property for another commercial use.

The Clean Water grant money will pay for designing and engineering the wetland, as well as conservation easement acquisition. Engineers will stabilize the wetland's banks, and when the project is completed, it will filter and clean water that runs through the area.

Hight said the city is currently recruiting engineering firms to take on the wetland project. He hopes to have a firm selected for the job and starting on the project in the coming months. The wetland engineering at Conover Station should be completed by next year, Hight said.

Once the wetland project is completed, the city will continue to develop the area as a park. Hight said officials are pursuing a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant to purchase nature-themed playground equipment and fund other park-related needs, such as walking trails, shelters and nature kiosks with information about the stormwater wetland.

Moritz said the grant will be awarded mid-year, if the city is fortunate enough to receive funding. He said many people helped develop the city's plan for Conover Station Park, and he commends efforts from the city's planning board and residents for their hard work and input.

For more information about Conover Station, visit www.ConoverStation.com.

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