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May 19, 2015



The Catawba County Board of Commissioners adopted an update to the County’s 2007 Parks Master Plan at its meeting on May 18, 2015. The Plan provides a guideline for future development, subject to available resources. 

“The Plan incorporates significant community input and was developed by County staff, in consultation with the County’s Parks Advisory Committee, over an 18 month period,” said Susan Ballbach, County Senior Planner who works closely with the Advisory Committee.  “We had more extensive engagement with the public than when we prepared the original plan in 2007, using feedback from a series of community meetings and a survey distributed both online and by paper.  The Committee kept these public comments in mind as they first reviewed existing parks across the county and sites for potential future parks, and then updated the plan with recommendations for changes in park operations, and future community and regional park development.”

“The survey told us that 70% of those who visit our parks do so to get an outdoor nature experience,” Ballbach said.  “We also learned that those who took the survey would like to see special events, wellness and physical fitness sessions at our parks.  Most who responded wanted increased hours of operation for the parks while others suggested enhanced or expanded trails and picnic areas.  The locations most often mentioned for development of future parks were the Catawba County Historical Association’s Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, Mountain Creek, and Murray’s Mill.”

The Committee’s review included the existing parks: Baker’s Mountain (189 acres with trails in a mountain habitat), Riverbend (450 acres including trails, a dog park, and canoe access on the Catawba River) and St. Stephens Parks (9 acres including a dog park and trails).

The proposed Plan recommends development of a regional park on Mountain Creek, a 589-acre site obtained by the County in 2010.  It also recommends smaller “historic parks” near the Catawba County Historical Association’s Bunker Hill Covered Bridge and Murray’s Mill.

“The updated Plan recommends that the County’s park system return to a six-day a week operating schedule,” Ballbach said.   “The three existing parks have been open four days a week since the economic downturn of 2008-2009.  In support of the recommendation, the Plan lists the economic, environmental, health, educational and tourism benefits of parks.”

The updated Plan also includes specific recommendations for improvements to the existing parks including a Community Meeting Room and primitive camping sites at Baker’s Mountain Park; paved trails and primitive camping sites at Riverbend Park; and paved trails and a separate dog park for smaller dogs at St. Stephens Park.

The Plan recommends opening a Bunker Hill Covered Bridge historic park and the Mountain Creek Regional Park and specific amenities for each.   For the Mountain Creek Park, the Plan recommends water-related amenities such as boat/canoe/kayak access and fishing; natural surface, paved, and mountain biking trails; picnic tables and shelters, primitive camping, a dog park and equestrian trails.   At the Bunker Hill Bridge Park, the Plan proposes paved and natural surface trails; educational programs/guided tours/historical interpretation regarding the historic bridge provided by the Catawba County Historical Association; a community meeting/education center and interpretative signage; and restrooms, picnic facilities and an outdoor amphitheater.

The draft plan is currently available for review online.  Questions may also be directed to Susan Ballbach at 828-465-8381 or