The Future is Green
The Town of Leland prioritizes parks and green space for the community.
With a nearly hundred-year history as a rural community separated by the Cape Fear River from historic downtown Wilmington, the Town of Leland was officially incorporated in 1989. Now bursting at the seams with impressive development, the leaders of this popular suburban city are determined to obtain and develop or preserve natural spaces for the community.
“The town has worked strategically to acquire property for the growth of our parks and green spaces in recent years,” says Town of Leland Community Enrichment Director Wyatt Richardson,
A 10-year strategic plan released in 2021 paints the municipality as home to a variety of green spaces that include three parks and a community garden as well as many natural streams for kayaking and trails for walking, running and biking. The town is now actively expanding these spaces.
Leland has acquired land for future parks located on both Kay Todd Road and Trade Street. Richardson confirms that a tract of 135 acres was recently donated to the town by a developer and that the town acquired green space from NCDOT as well. The NCDOT tracts were transferred to the town last November, and plans are to conserve the land as open space for now. This includes one tract of nearly 100 acres near the Juniper Creek Subdivision that was developed as a wetlands mitigation site.
Green Space & Conservation
The green space movement dates to the 1950s, when communities began to promote healthy lifestyles. Connecting people and places, greenways share common features like conservation areas, trails and amenities. Leland’s master plans have adhered to this philosophy from the start.
Town managers are hoping to expand and rezone Leland’s current conservation district to include an additional 120 acres it recently acquired. The annexation and rezoning will include potential for future acquisition of sensitive areas adjacent to estuaries, streams and wetlands as well as historically and archeologically significant sites. This will allow the land to remain undeveloped and in its original and natural state.
Current Leland Parks
The first park the Town of Leland developed is next Town Hall. Eight-acre Founders Park is homebase for community activities and includes a playground, picnic area, gazebo and paved multi-use path. The park’s community garden has plots available for rent and a complimentary water source. The popular 9-hole disc golf course there will be moving soon to a new park on Trade Street.
Cypress Cove Park along Sturgeon Creek has nearly 25 acres including wetlands with waterfront access. There is a dock, a kayak and canoe launch, and an overlook. There is also a handicap-access fishing area and an outdoor classroom.
Westgate Nature Park is a 150-acre site that preserves open spaces and conserves a sensitive tract along Jackey’s Creek. The park includes a trail, a playground, a raised boardwalk and an event lawn. The multi-phase development plan includes a total of 5 miles of trails that
complement the town’s goals of adding to its walkable communities.
Richardson is pleased with the progress Leland is making.
“The completion of the recent multi-use path along Old Fayetteville Road and Village Road is another great recreation-based element for our community,” he says.
Future Green Space
At nearly 30 acres, the new Loblolly Park is located on Kay Todd Road. At this writing the park was undergoing survey and site work including land clearing of understory growth. Following this work, staff will determine through a design process what amenities to include there.
“We also have many exciting projects that are upcoming such as renovations to Founders Park and the new disc golf course that will be located at the yet to be named park on Trade Street,” Richardson says.
The $6 million Founders Park renovation plan includes a complete overhaul of the park and construction of a new splash pad and amphitheater. This revitalization requires the relocation of the disc golf course. The renovations are partially funded by a grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
The Trade Street tract is near the Windsor Park neighborhood. It is approximately 11 acres, and $160,000 has been funded to develop an access road, parking lot and the new disc course. The disc course was highlighted as a desired amenity in a 2018 Parks and Recreation Master Plan and was initially installed as a temporary amenity at Founders Park, so it was important for the town to provide a more permanent home. The new course will be doubled in size to 18 holes.
The Town of Leland also has plans to develop the new 36-acre Sturgeon Creek Park along S. Navassa Road in the coming years. This will provide a second water access for the community.
“We continually explore opportunities to increase our park and green spaces throughout the town,” Richardson says. “With master plans completed for other parks, we have well-thought-out plans for the future of our park system as well.”
The Town of Leland currently owns several hundred acres that include both uplands and wetlands in different parts of town. Some of these green spaces are held in conservation or for future parks. One plan includes the Leland Greenway, a multi-use path connecting Leland’s Westgate Nature Park to Brunswick Nature Park, which is owned by Brunswick County.
Leland’s annual budget showcases the importance of green spaces to the community. The 2020-21 budget of $27 million included more than $1.1 million for parks and recreation. With all of the recent developments, the future of Leland is looking very green.