Spartanburg City Council heard an update on the planning process for potential improvements to Duncan Park at their meeting on Monday. PAL: Play Advocate Live Well Executive Director Laura Ringo and City Parks and Recreation Director Kim Moultrie walked Council through a series of proposed improvements to City's largest park, with plans including: better connectivity to the Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail, upgraded and new trails throughout the park, new restrooms and improvements to the park's amphitheater area, a proposed traffic circle at South Converse St. and Duncan Park Dr., new activities areas and playgrounds, and numerous improvements designed to allow residents and visitors a to better enjoy Duncan Park Lake.
Begun last year with the help of a grant from the National Park Service, the proposed improvements were developed through a combination of public survey data and community stakeholder meetings and guided by a steering committee of area residents, and while a final planning and implementation strategy for the improvements hasn’t yet been undertaken, Ringo and Moultrie proposed a pilot program to allow limited non-motorized boat use of the lake, one of the most requested new options among those who provided feedback.
The City and PAL intend to seek grant funding for the pilot program, which would open Duncan Park Lake to use by canoes and kayaks on weekends beginning this fall. According to Ringo, this will allow time for the lake to be prepared for use by finding ways to increase water flow and reduce stagnant water and to construct a dock from which to launch the boats. Results from the pilot program will be used to shape a more permanent plan for activating the lake for residents and visitors.
In other business, City Council heard a presentation from City Manager Chris Story providing an overview of a potential framework for allocating the City's $16.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan: Coronavirus State & Local Recovery Funds. Council previously allocated $1.5 million of that funding to Spartanburg's Hello Family program but has not yet allocated the remaining funding.
The proposal would allocate $7.25 million to various efforts around housing, targeting increased homeownership in low income census tracts, boosting the supply of affordable rental units, assisting homeowners with fixed incomes in making repairs, and assisting homeless individuals in transitioning to stable living environments. Another $7.75 million would be used for college and career transition readiness, neighborhood enhancements in low income census tracts, implementing portions of the Highland Transformation Plan, funding the City Fire Department's new headquarters renovation at 450 Wofford St., and modernizing technology for the City Police Department.
In his presentation, Story said he expects changes to the recommendations as discussions about the one-time funding allocation continue adding that the recommended allocations were crafted based on the following principles, which follow both the American Rescue Plan's intent and align with the City's priorities:
• In addition to stabilizing local government budgets, the American Rescue Plan: Coronavirus State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds are intended to “Build a strong, resilient, and equitable recovery by making investments that support long-term growth and opportunity.”
• Our intent is to develop a funding allocation that is rooted in data and evidence, identifies clear outcomes, leverages our limited resources through collaboration, and is aimed at long-term generational impact.
• The funding authorization emphasizes low-income households and communities. Therefore, we anticipate many activities and initiatives will be targeted to such populations and neighborhoods.
• Should City Council decide to adopt a similar framework, staff can then request proposals and engage potential implementation partners in more detailed consideration of implementation methods which may include grants to community partners or direct implementation by City staff.
You can download the full draft funding proposal at this link. For more from Monday's City Council meeting, see the full video below.