By Yustin Riopko
MINT HILL — It’s still a long way out, but plans are forming for Ezell Park.
By 2023, Mecklenburg County aims to complete the 90-acre community park on Matthews-Mint Hill Road between Well Road and Mintwood Drive. In the meantime, the planners are collecting public input.
Ezell Park has been in the works since before 2007, with an original master plan presented back in 2010. Since then, the population of Mint Hill has grown from about 22,800 to 27,200, about 16%, and seven new neighborhoods have popped up within a mile of the property.
Mecklenburg County held a virtual community workshop on Oct. 15 to get public input on the project.
“We are here today to see how much of this programming is still valid,” said Emily Buehrer, a Stimmel Associates landscape architect working on the project. “Are there other programming elements that were not considered previously that we should consider moving forward? Ultimately, we’ll reevaluate to see if it still makes sense.”
Designers are still gauging whether citizens want more passive recreation opportunities such as trails, disc golf and picnic areas, or more active ones like playgrounds, fields and courts.
The county’s budget is around $3.6 million.
A study by Stimmel showed 21 parks already exist within a five-mile radius of Ezell. While most are smaller neighborhood parks, two of them are larger community parks like Ezell, including Veterans Park about 3 miles away.
“We don’t want to overlap services so we really want to be very smart about how we look at what program items we put in the park,” Buehrer said.
Stimmel project manager Dan Blackman said, “The idea here is to understand what’s available and what’s there, but also what’s being offered to make sure that we’re not competing with other facilities that are nearby.”
Burt Lynn, capital planning director at Mecklenburg parks and rec, said even though it’s surrounded by neighborhoods, the park is positioned on a major thoroughfare.
“A lot of the parks that we have in this area are smaller, more neighborhood parks,” Lynn said. “They’re not necessarily made for any kind of gatherings or active uses that would require some support facilities. We need something a little easier to drive to.”
The county believes the community garden that went up on the land in 2013 has been a success. Mecklenburg park planner James Williams said the county would like to include amenities to the park that enhance the garden experience and make it the centerpiece of the park. Williams mentioned the possibility of a tool shed and a mulch platform to avoid fire ants.
According to Buehrer, one idea is to build off the garden with a natural and agricultural park theme. The county is considering uses like greenhouses, teaching farms, incubators or a farmer’s market.
“We know the history of this park,” Williams said, “and we know how important it is to the town of Mint Hill. We want to make sure as a principle stakeholder that we listen to the voices that are coming out of that area.”
Another community workshop will be held in January. Visit www.publicinput.com/ezell to provide input.