The project’s goal is to develop this part of downtown into an accessible and functional public space. When combined with a town footbridge over the creek, the park will create a direct “bridge” between Sylva’s energetic and growing downtown business district and the public parks and buildings on the far side of Scotts Creek.
Sylva residents have long been dismissive of the scraggly and rarely-used parking lot that lies along the back side of downtown. Recent streetscape improvements to Mill Street brought more attention to that part of town and led to renewed interest in a dormant plan to revitalize the lot.
As a result, a small group of interested residents and business owners organized a grassroots drive to build the park. Along the way, the plan was redrawn and new partnerships forged.
“This is a very underused area of town with a lot of potential” said Sarah Graham, a Downtown Sylva Association Board member who is coordinating the project. “As a downtown resident, I took a personal interest.”
The project has gained the support and enthusiasm of town officials, who for years have wanted to get the footbridge in place. “I think the projects will complement each other,” said Sylva Mayor Brenda Oliver.
The town board approved the Bridge Park Project — and did so with enthusiasm — allowing for more green space than originally requested. “This is a major step in the development of Sylva,” said Sylva Town Commissioner Stacy Knotts. “We finally have the missing piece that will connect the recreation facilities to the downtown area.”
Community support has been good and positive feedback abundant.
“I think that the plan sounds very financially feasible, reasonable, and inviting to all,” said Julie Spiro, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.
The Bridge Park Project hopes to gain interest and support from many of the local civic groups. The Sylva Garden Club will donate proceeds from its fall fundraiser, a pecan sale, toward the park. “We would love for the fund-raising drive to become a community wide effort,” said Graham.
A collaborative effort from the start, the project’s current contributors include the Downtown Sylva Association, the Sylva Town Board, the Sylva Garden Club, the Jackson County Greenways Commission, the Jackson County Farmers’ Market, WCU faculty, staff, and students, local business owners, architects, landscape architects, musicians, and members of the community at large. The diversity of ideas and input has allowed the project to take on a unique and effective success. The community has united to focus on a project that they hope will benefit the town for many years to come.
Local architects Philip Buchanan and Odell Thompson have worked with project planners to develop a plan that is not only functional, but also financially feasible. “I am excited about getting into the Bridge Park Project. Our community is overdue for something positive to be realized on that site,” said Thompson.
The kick-off celebration for the project will be held from 1-6 p.m. on Oct. 28 at the park site off of Mill Street. The purpose of the event is to officially launch the fund-raising campaign, reveal the final plan for the park and pavilion, and have a fun-filled family day to celebrate the project.