The view from in front of the swing at the top of the hill on the main trail at Bailey Mountain Preserve and Park. The Mars Hill Town Board voted to rename the trail in honor of Richard L. Hoffman, a former administrator at Mars Hill College.
MARS HILL – In fall 2021, the town of Mars Hill received an N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant award for $268,536 for park renovations at Bailey Mountain Preserve and Park.
But, according to Town Manager Nathan Bennett, the town bid the project in June, but received no bidders. When the town went back to work to make the project more enticing for bidders, it received three bids for the project.
The scope of work for the project is to provide ADA-accessible hard sidewalks near the Smith Farm part of the property, as well as picnic areas, parking and driveway improvements, and also providing walkways to be used for an amphitheater.
In its Nov. 6 meeting, the Mars Hill Town Board voted unanimously to enter into a contract agreement with T.P. Howard’s Plumbing for the project.
“It seems unique because it’s not a plumbing project at all, but they have a landscaping division,” Bennett said.
According to the town manager, T.P. Howard’s was the lowest bidder, coming in at $385,100. The next bidder, Yancey County-based Rock Creek Grading, bid the project at $467,900.
Bennett said the town is working with engineers to discuss the project.
Of the amphitheater, Bennett referred to the space as a “performance area that can host presentations and talks.”
“This bid includes everything that we’ve committed the state to do on the grant, except renovation of the house, and we need to provide a restroom facility,” Bennett said, when asked by board member Robert Zink if the performance area was to be included in the T.P. Howard’s bid.
To cover the remaining costs of the bid, Bennett recommended the town use local funds supplemented by the more than $286,000 in state grant funding.
According to Bennett, the town has access to $321,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding as well.
“Put that together with $268,536 from the state, and that would be $590,000,” Bennett said. “That would be enough to do the permitted contract and the funds that were set aside are estimated to do the house renovations and the restroom renovations. That would be a complete project.”
Additionally, the town will add roughly $718,000 in reserve funds from the fiscal year 2022-23 budget.
“We have funds available through fund balance to pay for these improvements,” Bennett said. “I would say we need to move forward before the price continues to escalate. That park’s getting a ton of use.”
Bailey Mountain Preserve offers three hiking trails, as well as three Mars Hill-owned barns at the Lower Smith Farm.
Additionally, Zink recommended Bennett approach the Madison County Tourism Development Authority to inquire about potentially helping fund the renovations.
The board unanimously approved the town enter into an agreement with T.P. Howard’s Plumbing to begin work on the project.
Bennett said the renovations would likely begin around Jan. 1.
Gazebo walkway project
On Nov. 6, the Mars Hill Town Board approved entering into a contract with a landscape designer on a project to repave the walkway to the town’s gazebo park.
The town also approved entering into a contract with a landscape designer on a project to repave the walkway to the town’s gazebo park.
According to Bennett, the project is estimated to cost $20,220 and will be funded from the town’s street department budget, which was allocated $369,000 in the 2023-24 budget.
Bennett issued a diagram assembled by the landscape designer hired by the university for the gazebo park paved walkway project.
“They own the gazebo park, and they are about to invest a significant amount of money down there to improve that landscape,” Bennett said. “They’ve recently put a roof on the gazebo and are making improvements to the gazebo to maintain it well into the future.”
Additional monies will be put into the project to beautify the gazebo park, which Bennett called “a gateway to the town and to the university.”
“I don’t want to speak on their behalf, but it’s a significant financial investment they’re making there, a six-figure investment,” Bennett said. “The town owns a 6-foot-wide car path along the Main Street Robinson Building that comes down the gazebo lot. Right now, the brick pathway is in terrible shape, unsafe shape.”
Renovations to the paved walkway trail at Mars Hill’s gazebo park are estimated to cost $20,220, according to Town Manager Nathan Bennett.
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According to Bennett, the town’s intention is to replace the walkway, which will run down Ivy Street and connect to public parking behind the Robinson Building, located at 9 S. Main St. and 15 S. Main St., which the town purchased in March.
“The walkway will improve our access to that parking area and make it safer and a more attractive area to park and walk up onto the Main Street businesses.”
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Mars Hill enters into agreement for Bailey Mountain renovations