The Welcome Center takes the place of the clubhouse-pro shop, of what was Highland Lake Golf Club. That property off of Highland Lake Road, between Spartanburg and Greenville highways, was sold to the village for $1.15 million two years ago in June 2013.
It was transformed into a 55-acre park, opening early last year. The park is at the village’s eastern edge, near Flat Rock, East Flat Rock and Hendersonville neighborhoods. King Creek is by its border with Staton Woods, while smaller Dye Creek runs through the park.
The clubhouse was razed, and only its foundation used. This was more affordable than trying to renovate the existing structure such as to put in handicapped access to bathrooms, Council members Anne Coletta and Sheryl Jamerson explained at the annual village picnic June 6.
They said the Welcome Center-Community Center should open any day now. Until then, it is locked and the large back porch remains roped off. The elevated porch offers a superb view of the park. Restrooms will be accessed from the back porch, or the front entrance. Even the men’s bathroom has a diaper changing table.
The other half of the ground level will be used for meetings and storage, Mayor Bob Staton noted. A wall will go up in a courtyard by the Welcome Center, listing donors of $1,000 or more.
“The Welcome Center looks wonderful,” Coletta said. Jamerson said the park gets steady use other than the heat of the day, and she often sees a handful to 30 cars in the front lot at a given time. Flat Rock’s other elected Council members include Jimmy Chandler, Don Farr and Albert Gooch.
The park’s main attraction is a 1.36-mile fitness trail. It opened in spring of 2014. It takes about a half-hour to walk it, at a firm pace. The loop will extend 1.5 miles, once linked to the perimeter nearest Highland Lake Road. Interior trails are eyed for coming months, with sections named after major donors.
About 100 trees and 1,500 seedings (thanks to the N.C. Forest Service) have been planted since fall, to make the park greener. A monthly nature walk is led by naturalists Fred Roane and Herman Lankford; the last one was June 6.
After surveying its residents, the village prioritized park amenities starting with a walking trail. The perimeter trail follows what was a golf cart path. The soft surface has finely-crushed compacted stone. It gives some cushion to footing, and can handle flooding with minimal damage, Vice-mayor Nick Weedman said.
Bicycles are permitted on the trail, but not skateboards or roller blades nor motorized vehicles. Such strict rules help keep the park “Low impact and passive” — quieter for users, and unobtrusive for neighbors and wildlife. Smoking, alcoholic beverages, portable charcoal grills and open fires are also banned anywhere in the park. Dogs must be leashed. The park is open dawn to dusk; there are no lights.
The park was a popular topic on June 6, as people munched on free ice cream and heard music at the Celebrate Flat Rock annual social on Village Hall grounds. Appalachian Fire played bluegrass, and Simple Folk did folk-rock. A baby Nubian goat from the Carl Sandburg Home was named (as Nuckles), by a drawing winner. A park information tent displayed sketches and data.
Volunteers explained the upcoming Welcome Center, playground (for which a large donation is pending), interior trails and bridges, and picnic pavilion as shelter near the welcome center for outdoor gatherings. The village is budgeting for these projects in 2015-16, which begins July 1, and seeks grants and donations for such amenities.
The marquee event at the park is the first annual free Fall into Flat Rock 5K and Family Fun Day, on Oct. 17 from 10:30-3. The run is on the nature trail. A rubber duck race is planned, for the creek in back. There will be a mini-curb market, storytelling, group nature walk, Tai Chi demonstrations, live music, and food and drinks. Pardee UNC Healthcare will be the presenting sponsor.
Village officials have said they plan to keep using village grounds and not the park for the ice cream social. As Weedman told The Tribune, this is the “heart of Flat Rock.” It is across Greenville Highway (U.S. 225) from the Flat Rock Playhouse. The Carl Sandburg Home is around the corner, off Little River Road.
Very importantly, the site can draw people to the Singleton Centre with Flat Rock Cinema just south along 225, then a row of merchants beyond West Blue Ridge Road. That is the site of an open market Thursdays, and monthly concerts.
The Flat Rock Park and Recreation Foundation, Inc. led by Maurean Adams seeks donations. Dave Bucher heads the Park Advisory Board. To find out more about The Park at Flat Rock and how to help develop and maintain it, contact the village office at 697-8100 or search Facebook. Or check http://flatrocknc.govoffice3.com, then click the park link.