The City of Lafayette recently completed land acquisition for the future city park location, Winding Stairs. On Thursday, April 10, a land swap was conducted to acquire the final 2.8 acres of land needed for the park. The next day, the city turned in an application for $186,000 of federal grant money to pay for the final development of the beauty spot.
City Councilman Roger Russell was part of the core group of individuals who put in hours of time (and saved city taxpayers $8,000 by not paying for a professional grant writer) to develop this project, recruit volunteers, and write the grant.
“The City bought 112 acres of the Christine Harris property a few years ago, to be used as an industrial park,” said Russell. “The past few years, the city has been discussing turning about 35 acres of that land into a city park, with trails.
“There’s been discussion for some time with Dr. Pipkin and his family about trading land on one side of the stream for some other land that the city has. Thursday, we made that trade for 2.8 acres, so we now have land on both sides of the stream. The city voted that day to dedicate 35 acres of it to use as a perpetual park.”
The city traded away 2.8 acres of hilly land, which was located nearby, also adjacent to Pipkin property, and which could not be used for trails.
“That trade with the Pipkin family was very important to us, because the city only owned the land on the west side down to the creek, and we really needed the land on both sides of the creek for this grant,” said Russell. “So we’re very grateful to the Pipkin family.”
This grant is a federal grant administered by the state through the Recreational Trail Program (RTP). It is funded by the Federal Off Road Vehicle Tax.
Russell said the state expects over 200 applicants for the money, but two state employees have come to look over the land, and each have stated that they think we have a very good chance.
“They can’t guarantee us that we’ll get the money,” said Russell, “but they said due to the location and the way it looks—it’s a natural area, within city limits, and it’s very close for everyone in the county—we have a really good chance of getting the grant approved.
“It’s a considerable amount of money. We should know late July, early August whether we’ve been approved or not. And when we do, we’ll get engineers will start working on designing overlooks and the bathroom. And we’ll have volunteers that will start working on the trails just as soon as we hear.
“The trails will be built primarily by volunteers. The contractors are volunteering time and various citizens of Macon County are volunteering—a weekend, a day, some of them over the course of a year. So that’s the other thing that will make it successful, because the state will be really excited about that much community involvement.”
Russell said that if they get the grant, they hope to have the park open to the public by this fall. Right now, the area is closed down for insurance and safety reasons. It is located just off of Hwy 52, behind the industrial park land near Tractor Supply.
There will be three overlooks in the park. One of them will be ADA accessible, with 1000 feet of concrete trail so that anyone can get to it. The other two will be closer to the waterfall. There will be about a mile and a half of trails, as well as picnic tables, parking area, and park benches. The bathrooms will have shower stalls, so that scouts and other groups can camp in the park. The grant will also fund small sewer, water, and electric lines into the site, and information boards for park visitors.
Later on, Russell says, there will be recreational vehicle parking sites for camping. That part won’t be funded by the grant, though, so it would need donations of time and materials.
“We want to give full credit to the full city council, who were so supportive,” said Russell. “And those who worked on the grant were myself, Councilman Pam Cothron, and community planner David Starnes. He did a lot, and came to Lafayette once a week for several weeks and didn’t charge us anything. And several people on the [Mayor Driver’s] staff helped us.
“Also, we should give the original Planning Commission credit, and also the local citizens that we’ve talked to, who have supported us. The Lafayette Regional Planning Commission have been working, and the Lafayette Recreational Board, and they are the ones that recommended the project to the City Council.”