4/15/2021 2:01:00 PM Summerfield seeks $500,000 state grant for developing 115-acre Bandera Farms tract
The request starts the process for securing nearly $1.8 million to turn the 115-acre tract on Bunch Road into a trails preserve
Photo courtesy of Piedmont Land Conservancy | Lillian Cahill, co-leader of a work crew rough cutting the equestrian and hiking trails at Bandera Farms this week, clears the way with a brush cutter.
by CHRIS BURRITT
SUMMERFIELD - The town of Summerfield is seeking a $500,000 state matching grant to start development of the 115-acre Bandera Farms tract for horseback-riding and hiking.
The Town Council voted this past Tuesday, April 13, to approve the master plan for the Bandera Farms public trails preserve and apply for a grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) to help pay for improvements.
Summerfield joins Oak Ridge and Stokesdale in seeking PARTF funding for expanding their parks and recreational facilities. Neither Oak Ridge nor Stokesdale received a grant each had applied for last year, raising the possibility that Summerfield's application may be denied this year and requiring the town to reapply next year.
"It is hard to get PARTF grants the first time around," Palmer McIntyre, conservation planner for Piedmont Land Conservancy (PLC), said during an April 8 informational meeting about Bandera Farms. "At least we're getting it in the hopper. If we don't get it this year, we will apply next year."
The master plan estimated costs of $1.79 million for the project, consisting of 4.5 miles of trails and two trailheads with parking, an adventure playground, picnic shelter and restrooms. It also calls for construction of a mile-long section of the Piedmont Greenway, using natural materials. In a second phase, the greenway will be paved with asphalt, at an estimated cost of $1.05 million.
PLC and the local governments backing the project plan to seek state and federal grants to pay for the trails preserve. Aside from PARTF, the master plan lists four other possible sources of grants, all of which require a local match of varying percentages by recipients.
"That is the hope, that we can fund the development of this project mostly through grants," McIntyre told those attending last week's meeting.
In exchange for PARTF funding, creation of the Bandera Farms trails preserve would improve residents' quality of life by preserving green space and expanding recreational assets, according to the master plan. It would also create an opportunity for health and wellness in the community while boosting the economy by drawing visitors to the area's trails.
Over the past year, PLC, a Greensboro-based nonprofit land preservation group, has spearheaded efforts to create the trails park on the undeveloped property on Bunch Road. It is bounded by Interstate 73 to the east and Reedy Fork Creek to the north, creating a floodplain restricting residential and commercial development of the tract.
PLC negotiated the purchase of the property from heirs of Dr. Joe Henson, a deceased Greensboro doctor who bought the property in the early 1970s. Last December, the nonprofit paid $575,000 for the land, with a state grant and financial contributions from the towns of Summerfield and Oak Ridge, the city of Greensboro and Guilford County.
The group is now planning the development of the rolling, wooded land with about 4.5 miles of trails for horseback riders and hikers. In addition, property running along the floodplain serves as the future route of the Piedmont Greenway, a trail that will stretch 19 miles from Greensboro to Winston-Salem through Summerfield and Kernersville.
The asphalt greenway will accommodate runners, walkers and cyclists, while the natural-surface trails looping through the property will handle horses and hikers, according to McIntyre. Motorized vehicles won't be allowed.
As part of the site planning process, workers flagged the looping trails, with the start of construction dependent upon securing of grants. PLC representatives said the nonprofit contracted with Conservation Corps North Carolina, an AmeriCorps program, to rough cut the flagged trails.
This week, the crew is using saws, loppers and other tools to clear a trail corridor 5 feet wide, according to McIntyre.
She led the informational meeting at the Bur-Mill Park clubhouse last week, presenting the project master plan produced by Destination by Design, a recreational trails design firm based in Boone, North Carolina.
A rendering shows two sets of trails, connected by a bridge over a creek, looping back and forth across the eastern and western sections of the property.
Plans call for two parking lots on Bunch Road, with the design for equestrian parking incorporating suggestions from horseback riders surveyed by the PLC.
The parking lot for riders will allow trucks and trailers to pull in and out so they won't have to back up their rigs. Mounting blocks will help riders get on and off of their horses, with accommodations for disabled riders.
A separate parking lot will serve visitors who want to walk and cycle on the greenway and play in an adventure playground. Restrooms, the play area and paths will also comply with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, McIntyre said.
Eight of 10 respondents to the PLC's survey recommended construction of a trail with "moderate" ups and downs. Plans call for natural surface trails 6 feet wide, an improvement upon old logging trails often used for riding in equestrian parks in the Triad, according to McIntyre.
The PLC's survey found that 89 percent of horseback riders travel more than half an hour to ride on trails.
Bandera Farms will give horseback riders another option in Guilford County where Bryan Park and Northeast Park offer equestrian trails, according to the Bandera Farms' master plan. A half dozen other parks within 85 miles of Bandera Farms offer horseback riding.
The county has one of the highest concentrations of horses in the state, McIntyre said.
"It is a rich place for horses, so it seemed appropriate to have a horse facility in this part of the county," she said.
Eventually, the PLC plans to transfer ownership of Bandera Farms to Summerfield since the property is located inside of the town limits.
"That doesn't mean we will be operating it on our own," Summerfield Town Manager Scott Whitaker told those at the meeting last week.
Operation and maintenance of the park will be determined by a memorandum of understanding that will be negotiated among the PLC, Summerfield, Oak Ridge, Greensboro and the county, according to Whitaker.
PLC and the municipalities have incentives to remain involved in the project, McIntyre said.
Summerfield and Oak Ridge view the project as a recreational destination, she said. The county backs the establishment of the Piedmont Greenway while conservation of the property protects Greensboro's watershed.
PLC will hold the conservation easement on the land, McIntyre said.
"We like to think of this as a park that will offer something for everyone," she said.
want to learn more?
To view the master plan for Bandera Farms Park, visit Piedmont Land Conservancy's website at piedmontland.org. Click on the "Get Involved" tab at the top of the homepage, then tap the link to the master plan.