S.P. hosts public input meeting for Whitehall

The Town of Southern Pines is hosting a public input meeting for the Whitehall master plan on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. in the E.S. Douglass Community Center, 1185 W. Pennsylvania Ave.

During this meeting, Town staff along with the design team from CPL and Creech & Associates will review the results from the initial community feedback phase and present options for enhancing Whitehall to provide public passive recreation.

The first public input phase, conducted during the fall, included an online survey that was hosted for two months and completed by nearly 700 unique participants. Additional opportunities included a public meeting in August, along with over 30 focus interviews that were conducted with various Town personnel and community members who have specialized knowledge to inform the master plan process.

The survey confirms there is strong community support for enhancing Whitehall to provide amenities needed for public access; this is consistent with feedback received in the August meeting and interviews. Community members also agree that the focus of Whitehall should be passive recreation and improvements should be sensitive to the existing natural ecology and features.

“By focusing on ‘passive’ rather than ‘active’ recreation, Whitehall can be used in a way that does not require major alterations to the land that would destroy its natural beauty and habitats,” shares Southern Pines Parks & Recreation Director Cindi King. “Active recreation, including regulated sports, athletic fields, aquatic facilities, and similar are the types of improvements and activities the community has agreed would not be suitable for Whitehall.”

Based on community consensus, the design team has prepared a series of draft concepts for Whitehall which enhance unstructured recreation activities and open, natural spaces. The concepts also include opportunities to incorporate “low key” events, educational activities, picnic areas, trail use, kite flying, and similar in a sensitive way.

The Town has successfully utilized Whitehall in this way during 2022 with the annual Arbor Day celebration, gatherings of the Whitehall book club and youth story time, educational programs hosted by the Library, and low-intensity offerings by the Parks & Recreation department, such as outdoor yoga, meditative walks, and similar.

Based on public input regarding the draft concepts, the design team will then prepare a singular draft concept plan and program recommendations. This will be presented to the community and Town Council in the near future for additional feedback and the final master plan will be forwarded to the Town Council for adoption.

“We are thrilled the community recognizes the value of Whitehall to Southern Pines and we have received such a high level of public participation in this master plan process,” shares Assistant Town Manager Jessica Roth. “A park system is a major contributor to a community’s overall quality of life. Whitehall has been thoughtfully protected by its previous owners, providing 157 acres of natural lands that highlight the native ecosystems of the Sandhills, including the longleaf pine forest and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Whitehall is now an asset that belongs to all of us and it does not need — or deserve — significant change. Our goal is to ‘tread lightly’ as we enhance the property for public passive recreation uses so that it can be safely accessed and enjoyed.”

More details on the Whitehall master plan can be found at https://bit.ly/tosp_whitehall


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