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Flat Rock fundraiser set to expand trails, complete nature center


Feast and Frolic is 6-9 p.m., at Kenmure Country Club. There will “exceptional cuisine, entertainment and dancing to music by A Social Function,” organizers said. Tickets are each $150, with much of that considered tax-deductible since it is for a non-profit group.

The fund drive started in June, and got a superb start with $53,000 in gifts and pledges by June 12, The Flat Rock Park and Recreation Foundation, Inc, noted. That was more than one-third of the way toward the goal of matching up to $150,000 in an estate gift of the late Richard Eppler for trails expansion, according to village and foundation officials.

The foundation board voted unanimously in June to initiate a one-for-one matching summer campaign. The targeted timetable is four months through September, making this the mid-point.

Several interior paths will expand the trail network. This takes trail users closer to wildlife. It also gives walkers options on distances without having to double back in case of fatigue or sudden inclement weather.

The original perimeter trail was expanded last winter with a segment much closer to Highland Lake Road, toward the first portion of what was hole number two of the former golf course there. That segment begins at a fork in the path. This is behind the new pavilion, which provides shades for picnics and meetings.

There are naming opportunities for trail segments. The Highland Lake Village Neighborhood trail is a new portion, named after residents who collectively donated over $5,000.

The overall perimeter trail is named in honor of late landscape architect Ed Lastein, the 67-acre park’s master designer since the village bought it for $1.15 million in June 2013. A dedication ceremony is planned for soon after Labor Day. Lastein enhanced the park concept into a “jewel,” the initial trail and designed and engineered its extensions, Flat Rock Mayor Robert Staton said.

“Visionary” Lastein “appreciated the natural beauty of the land” in his preliminary park master plan, that placed amenities in useful spots while “preserving the natural lay of the land and its beauty,” Staton stated. He noted the perimeter trail goes through or by “meadows, wetlands, streams, ponds, woods and wildflowers.” Staton said many trail walkers praise Lastein’s touch of a soft surface.

Lastein was the main advisor for landscaping aspects of zoning codes and kudzu control, designed village brick sidewalk, was on the village Board of Adjustment, and chaired the greenways committee for years. He died at age 59, in July of 2016. Former Flat Rock Mayor Terry Hicks described Lastein as perpetually creative and “cheerful.”

The park has expanded in recent months with its facilities, trails and landscaping. A major step was when the park’s state-of-the-art Bryan Playground opened in mid-July 2016. Its budget was $270,000. This Beanstalk Builders adventure playground features a climbing-bouncing “sky hammock” suspended cargo net. Fitness stations include a catwalk, and climbing walls and rings.

Last September, the Robert V. Staton Pavilion was dedicated. The $252,000 wooden post-and-beam structure is near the welcome center, the remodeled former golf clubhouse, and its Perry N. Rudnick Community Room. Next came trail extensions.

The Maybank-Rhett Nature Center emerged this spring. Nearly $50,000 total was donated by the Maybank and Rhett families, and foundations of TD and Wells Fargo banks, Council member Albert Gooch noted.

Donations are sought to complete the nature center, which has had a projected $70,000 price tag, and to extend trails. As land sales and new developments make the county less rural, Flat Rock council member Anne Coletta said, “it is more important than ever to preserve the natural life around us.”

The foundation, a non-profit that began three years ago, is administered by Development Dir. Maureen Adams with Myra Grant the other staff member. Marcia Caserio is the board’s development chairperson, and board members Dennis Flanagan and Paige Williams are also into park fundraising.

Duncan Fraser is the foundation board president. As of this spring Judy Petersen was V.P., Terry Hicks secretary, Jan Egolf treasurer. The board’s finance members were Alicia Hearne, Dr. Jim Kessaris and Bob Lane; with Hilton Swing doing marketing.

The village has spent more on the park in recent years, than any project. For instance, in 2015-16 nearly $354,000 was spent which more than tripled the amount in the prior fiscal year, according to Carl Shaw’s audit. Then $154,000 was budgeted for the fiscal year that recently ended.

Recreation, health and nature exploration and education are among park facets. Village Council has sought public input, such as at the park master plan public hearing last October and in surveying priorities. Trails have consistently topped public want lists. The current trail is the “most utilized amenity in the park, and the most important,” Mayor Staton noted.

Park usage varies during the day, often by extent of heat. Groups that use it include the National Guard. An area unit there Saturday periodically meets at the park for verbal training, but does not conduct drills there, a guardsman noted. He said sitting at tables outdoors beats a classroom.

Regular trail users include Tom Savage, reigning teacher of the year in the Henderson County Early College program. He walks a lap or two with his Boston terrier Wiley in the park daily. He likes how the park is getting developed further.

There are organized, free nature walks in the park. Last Friday morning, Aug. 4, naturalist Rosalie Estey led a walk of over an hour. She spoke, pointed out dragonflies, cattails and other flora and fauna in and around the park’s ponds.

Fishing and swimming in ponds are forbidden in the park, along with remote-controlled toys and self-propelled devices. The park is open dawn to dusk.

Fore more on the Aug. 12 fundraiser or the park’s fundraising and volunteering, call Maurean Adams via the village office at 697-8100. Or, also for park events, check flatrockparkfoundation.com or https://www.facebook.com/parkatflatrock/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED.

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