The Town of Valdese in Burke County has acquired 302 acres along Lake Rhodhiss and McGalliard Creek to become Valdese Lakeside Park, the town’s newest and largest public park.
Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina secured the purchase agreement with the seller, Caldwell Timber Partners, as well as a grant of $673,247 from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to help fund the $1.35 million project.
The property purchase and fundraising over the past two and a half years were a collaborative effort by the Town of Valdese, the nonprofit Friends of the Valdese Rec, and Foothills Conservancy. Additional funding included a $300,000 North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, a $100,000 donation from Kellex Seating, a $300,000 donation from the Rostan Family Foundation, and other public and private contributions.
Situated in the Catawba River Basin, Lake Rhodhiss supplies drinking water for the Town of Valdese, the City of Lenoir, and several other communities in Caldwell County. Conserving this tract of land with a Clean Water Management Trust Fund conservation easement protects water quality for residents and those downstream.
One anticipated outcome of the project is economic growth for the Valdese community through increased tourism, with the new park drawing visitors and outdoor enthusiasts and attracting new businesses. The park also has the potential to benefit nearby neighborhoods by attracting residents who want to live close to a park.
According to Walter Clark, executive director of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, “Valdese was one of the fund’s highest scoring projects in 2017. The project protects 22,800 feet of stream and the lake shoreline while significantly enhancing the town’s recreational assets. The community’s resolve in raising local matching funds is extremely admirable and added to the project’s success.”
The plan to purchase the 302-acre tract of land began in 2015 when Beth Heile, president of Friends of the Valdese Rec, approached Foothills Conservancy for assistance acquiring the property.
“There have been many ups and downs along the three-year journey to acquire the land,” said Heile. “I am thrilled that it ended on an ‘up’ and am grateful to have had Foothills Conservancy’s guidance along the way. What started as a partnership has turned into heartfelt friendships.”
Now that the Town of Valdese has secured the property, Friends of the Valdese Rec will shift its focus to a proposed list of amenities for the new park. These include hiking and mountain biking trails, a dock that will feature views of Table Rock Mountain, space for fishing, and a kayak and canoe launch, a picnic area, a disc golf course, a natural playground, and an outdoor classroom. A two-mile greenway trail from McGalliard Falls Park, the popular site of a scenic waterfall, to the town’s wastewater treatment plant is an immediate goal to be completed within the month.
Director of Parks and Recreation for the Town of Valdese, Doug Knight, is excited about the opportunities this park will offer to residents. “It’s exciting that the land is finally available to the people of Valdese,” said Knight. “I’m really looking forward to making the park into a place that everyone can enjoy.”
“We are ready to get folks out enjoying this beautiful property,” said Heile. “Destination by Design was hired in October to create a master plan for the park layout.” According to Heile, a draft plan will be ready for public review in March. Friends of the Valdese Rec is continuing to fundraise for the park’s amenities.