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What does Raleigh need more: another nature park or a place where teenagers can play basketball and stay out of trouble?

It seems to me that is the issue in the Horseshoe Farm debate.

Horseshoe Farm is a 146-acre tract of land off U.S. 401 in northeast Raleigh, bounded by the Neuse River.

Nature lovers want the land preserved as nature intended it.

But the City Council is considering a recommendation from its parks, recreation and greenways advisory board to build a 24,000-square-foot center along with outdoor basketball courts on the property.

Rec-center supporters – like City Council member Jessie Taliaferro – say there are precious few recreational places in that part of the city for teenagers, few other places to compete with the draw of drugs, drinking and just hanging out.

The nature lovers say that’s a noble idea. Just not here.

I don’t understand that. Isn’t Umstead Park a nature park? In fact, I understand that in Northeast Raleigh alone there are about 1,000 acres already serving as Nature park experiences – greenway trails, Forest Ridge Park at Falls Lake, the Dr. Annie Louise Wilkerson gift, and Camp Durant Nature park.

But there are no active organized recreation opportunities north of Millbrook Exchange Park.

What’s more, Horseshoe Farm was a working farm until the city bought it for $1.1 million. It’s hardly a pristine, untouched natural site.

Ironically, the naturalists support the construction of an art and nature education center with parking lots, but not a building where kids would play basketball and have after-school care.

On 146 acres, surely the city can provide both some protected nature experiences and active recreation areas for youth and adults.

And don’t say – as some city leaders apparently have – that Raleigh can’t afford a recreation center.

After all, they found the money for a new Fayetteville Street, a new Civic Center, a new downtown parking deck and a $20 million subsidy for a new downtown hotel.

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One comment on “Nature or Kids

  1. mgrady says:

    I vote for the community center. For one, the citizens of Raleigh do have an abundance of parks, lake trails, the new trail that makes its way around the circumference of raleigh.

    In addition community centers act as a hub for community activities. They host groups ranging from karate and yoga classes to political prescinct meetings to pottery classes to self-help groups.

    In my opinion, community centers augment the very essence and realization of a community.

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