by Mark Lively

The 2014 bond referendum approved by the citizens of Winston-Salem includes $1 million for repair and renovation of Hanes Park. MLA Design Group, a prominent landscape architecture firm based in Winston-Salem, was hired by the City in early 2015 and charged with developing plans to repair and improve the park. After many months of careful review, consultation with the many stakeholders, and public meetings, MLA has prepared two closely related draft concept plans for improvements to the park. The details of the plans unveiled at a public meeting on December 9, 2015 can be viewed at their website (http://millerla.com/hanesparkplan/). At that meeting MLA requested comments and input from the community before December 31 to prioritize the proposed projects. The final Hanes Park master plan will provide the city with a guide for improvements to the park. The scale of the proposed projects in the master plan is far larger and the number of projects too numerous for all to be funded with the amount of bond money available. The individual projects proposed in the concept plans must be prioritized and costs estimated before a final version of the master plan will be ready for submission to the city.

Based on the information provided by the community at the end of December and on their careful research for this project over the last year, MLA is now working to prioritize and estimate the costs of the different elements of the plan. A third public meeting will be scheduled, possibly before the end of February, to present this prioritized plan to the community before MLA finalizes its submission to the city for consideration by the city council. The West End Association has reviewed the proposed elements of the concept plans and submitted our recommendations for priority of implementation. The full document detailing the WEA responses is available upon request (thewestender@yahoo.com).

Our recommendations are based on long standing positions adopted by WEA on the use and maintenance of the park and represent the consensus of members of the WEA board. They were reached through discussions among the officers and members of the Board with members attending regularly scheduled meetings of the WEA. Our objective is to identify the best choices for use of the bond funds designated for repair and renovation of Hanes Park. Our priorities are based on the use of the bond referendum funds and NOT for overall priority of proposed Concept projects without regard to sources of funding. Our priority is to use the available funds appropriated for the project (approx. $900,000 after planning costs) for the most important proposed actions for repair and renovation of the Park.

MLA has developed two slightly different concept plans for consideration. Each plan proposes to relocate the clay tennis courts currently within the running track to an area near Wiley Middle School adjacent to the existing clay courts on the South end of the running track. The main difference between the two plans is that Concept A would relocate only the tennis courts, leaving the tennis center buildings where they are within the track. Concept B would move the tennis courts as well as the tennis center buildings to a location on the hillside just above the relocated courts. The WEA is opposed to relocation of the tennis courts and the tennis center so we have not fully recommended adoption of either concept plan.

Hanes Park Concept Plan B developed by MLA Design Group. (http://millerla.com/hanesparkplan/)

We have assigned the highest priority to proposed projects in each concept plan that will repair and/or renovate existing features in the park. These projects include repairing bridges, stone walls, and walkways; clearing unwanted vegetation to improve sight lines; improved landscaping; and related actions that will repair the losses accumulated over decades of deferred and often inadequate maintenance.

The WEA does not support installation of lighting, including “uplighting”, within the park. We do support improvement of walkways and paths in and around the park but not by the addition of impermeable, hard surface paths except as needed to improve access by our disabled citizens.

Addition of new features such as new entrance stairways, overlooks, monuments, benches, “historical elements”, and related features should be considered only if sufficient funds remain after the repair and renovation projects have been completed. Proposed new additions should be organized into manageable projects, their costs estimated, and then prioritized by the community for possible future implementation as funds become available.

The WEA notes that the absence of a plan for provision of open public restroom facilities in HP is a major omission from the concept plans offered. This is an important objective that should be addressed before any other new features or elements are considered. At a minimum, the existing restroom facility adjacent to the tennis center should be upgraded to the extent allowable and city policies should be changed to allow the facilities to remain open during reasonable park hours, not at the discretion of the tennis center.

Proposed projects that are the responsibility of the WS/FC School system (such as backstops, screening for baseball equipment, ball field enhancements, ball field fencing, etc.) should not be prioritized for funding from bond funds. Funding for school facilities located on park property is the sole responsibility of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board as stipulated in the 1999 Hanes Park Usage Agreement signed by the City and the WS/FC/School Board.

The WEA will continue working with MLA Design Group and the City of Winston-Salem as the final Hanes Park master plan is finalized for presentation to the City Council for approval. Residents of the West End neighborhood should continue their engagement with this critical process to assure that Hanes Park will continue to serve the needs of all Winston-Salem citizens for another 100 years.

Contact us at thewestender@yahoo.com or start a public conversation using the West End listserv.