By Jesse Wood
June 7, 2013. Yesterday, the Town of Seven Devils received notification that it has been awarded a grant for the purchase of a pristine, wooded area with a stream and waterfall, known locally as Otter Falls Park, according to Town Manager Ed Evans.
Earlier this year, the Seven Devils Town Council agreed to pursue a N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant after hearing from community members.
The grant is for $135,800 and is contingent upon a 50/50 match with local government funds. The total cost of the acquisition is expected to cost $271,600 – that includes $265,000 for the purchase of the 9.78-acre tract and several thousand for due diligence such as an appraisal, survey and title search.
Clyde David Little is the seller of the property, which, according to a resolution adopted by the Seven Devils Town Council, has historical significance for its usage by Native Americans and for being a track bed for the original Tweetsie Railroad.
Evans said that portions of the funds for the purchase of the property could come from a lender, general fund balance and/or donations. Before applying for the grant, Evans said citizens were asked how they felt about the project.
“Actually every comment, email and letter we received was positive,” Evans said. “That doesn’t mean there wasn’t opposition, but if anyone was opposed, they didn’t voice their opposition.
Residents were also asked if they were willing to donate funds and the majority of people expressed a willingness to contribute financially to Seven Devils first potential natural park area.
“We are hoping a portion of it can be funded through donations,” Evans said.
Currently, the village has two tennis courts with a small playground nearby. That is the extent of the public land in Seven Devils.
“That is one reason this is important to so many of our folks … This 9.78-acre parcel is the midway point in town. It’s all wooded, natural, has a small stream, a small water fall. It’s a very pretty piece of property,” Evans said. “In my opinion, it’s an ideal parcel to keep natural [with] trails.”
Bill Wilkinson, a resident of Seven Devils, past town council member and current chair of the town’s Tourism Development Authority and Board of Adjustment, said he thinks this purchase, if all goes through, will be “an improvement for the town.”
“I think it’s a beautiful area. I’ve even known friends in the past to get married down there,” Wilkinson said, adding that Seven Devils doesn’t have any other place for members of the community to go hiking or explore nature on public property.
But he added that he feels the town overpaid for the nearly 10-acre parcel.
“I think they paid too much for it, but that’s my personal opinion … I know property values up here pretty well. They might have paid a little more than they should, maybe twice as much as they should,” Wilkinson said. “[But] as long as the town has a way to [pay for] it without raising my taxes.”
He added that recently Evans spoke before the TDA to give them an update on the potential Otter Falls Park acquisition and that the TDA doesn’t have plans of funding any part of the acquisition.
“We haven’t planned on it anyway,” Wilkinson said of the TDA.
Before the grant is finalized and funds are available, Evans said that a few hoops exist for the town to jump through and that funds won’t become available until later this summer.