Letter from CLG sent to the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and the Village of Flat Rock on our opposition to the PARTF conversion process in the Park at Flat Rock for NCDOT project U-5887:
Re: PARTF conversion in the Park at Flat Rock (NCDOT project U-5887)
The Cultural Landscape Group:Flat Rock (CLG) is a citizens’ group dedicated to preserving the cultural landscape of Flat Rock in a way that reflects the character and history of the area. We are writing to express our opposition to the request by the Village of Flat Rock to convert property from the Park at Flat Rock for use by NCDOT for the N. Highland Lake Road project (U-5887).
The PARTF grant the Village received to help purchase the old Highland Lake golf course and develop it into a park requires that the property remain available to the public for recreational use. Converting the property out of recreational use to allow NCDOT to widen the roadbed and dampen the road curves will adversely affect the park in substantial ways.
Some of our concerns are:
- Road project unnecessary. As shown in NCDOT’s own analysis [NCDOT Prioritization 3.0 Project Summary: SR 1783 (Highland Lake Road)], the N. Highland Lake Road project does not upgrade how the roadway functions, and there are no safety or capacity issues. Property is being taken from the park and the public for an unnecessary project.
- Increased traffic speed. Extensive traffic research shows that widening a road and dampening its curves (which granting this conversion would allow) results in increased driver speed. Increased speed on this road directly impacts the public’s safety and enjoyment of the park.
- Bunched arrowhead environment. On the south side of N. Highland Lake Road is an area where the bunched arrowhead, a plant federally protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, has been identified. The bunched arrowhead only blooms from mid-May through July, and is very difficult to identify when not blooming. It is unclear if NCDOT’s environmental assessment for this project has been done during that blooming period. If not, NCDOT risks damaging an area that may include this federally-protected plant.
- Park landscape. PARTF funds are available to help local governments provide recreational space for the public. The appearance and use of that space is important—but this project actually diminishes the natural appearance of the Park at Flat Rock by cutting down almost 60 trees in the park that line the road and protect the park from speeding traffic. Removing this section of the park for NCDOT to pave also endangers the Ed Lastein perimeter trail, the first park amenity and one of its most popular walking trails. It puts the trail significantly closer to speeding traffic, removes the trees that currently provide a visual and safety buffer, and, with the loss of those trees, increases the environmental impact of pollution on park users.
- Public input. A significant number of property owners in Flat Rock are not year-round residents. By having the public hearing in early June, many of these property owners will not be able to participate in the process.
Thank you for your consideration, and please let us know if you would like additional information on our concerns.