We are investing in affordable housing AND parks and green space!
Since the last election cycle, whenever the Town makes incremental progress on providing more affordable housing units -- as we did LAST week -- there has been an increasingly loud murmur of “what about the parks?” In an effort to forestall an unnecessary housing vs. parks narrative, I would like to also share exciting news on the parks front.
First, I know that parks and greenways are a top priority for Chapel Hill residents. My family and I share that sentiment, and we are proud that the Town’s investments mean we rank ahead of Durham and Raleigh in the percentage of residents who live within a 10-minute walk of a park. We also rank first in comparison to Durham and Raleigh in the percentage of low-income residents who live within a 10-minute walk of a park, first in the percentage of children who live within a 10-minute park, and first in the percentage of seniors who live within a 10-minute walk of a park. In addition, Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation maintains a system of approximately 17.6 miles of urban greenways and trails, which you can explore using our town’s map of open spaces and parks.
Parks funding, as the Council just discussed at its work session last week, was one of many Town operations that was cut or frozen at the start of the pandemic, since we did not know what the fiscal impact would be on the Town at that time. Luckily, Chapel Hill fared relatively well and we are now working on plans to reinstate and catch up on key investment areas, including Parks and Rec.
I was one of the Council members who advocated for using a portion of our ARPA funds for much needed parks maintenance. The Town also had excess fund balance at the end of the last fiscal year. Between that funding, ARPA funding, and bond funding, the Council has allocated $8.1 million to parks and greenways for this year.
Staff are also working on a study for a new splash pad and inclusive playground and the Council is giving direction on December 7th on a plan to create a new park on Legion Road that, combined with Ephesus Park, would be close to 40 acres.
Finally, we will be prioritizing greenways as a meaningful transportation alternative and working to build out a true "everywhere-to-everywhere" greenway system that will be transformative for Chapel Hill, as part of our new Complete Communities Framework. The Council has a vision of making Chapel Hill a complete community where people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and income levels can thrive – that means housing, parks, transit, jobs – and we are working on making all of those a reality for everyone.
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