'); } -->
After a series of stops and starts, a long-planned multipurpose center next to Lake Johnson is advancing to the design stage.
The parks and recreation department will hold three meetings to gather suggestions from the public on a concept, layout and lineup of activities for the center, which has been the subject of public debate for two decades. The multipurpose center was included in a 1993 master plan for Lake Johnson, but lack of money and discord over the project contributed to numerous delays.
The latest plan calls for putting the center on a spot next to the park’s swimming pool behind Athens Drive High School. This is the site originally envisioned in the master plan, said Dick Bailey, who oversees design development for parks and rec.
Want to go?
The first public meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Lake Johnson Waterfront Center, 4601 Avent Ferry Road.
For details, call the park planning office at 919-996-4782.
The spot offers easy access to parking and the trail system.
“The thinking at that time, which has been reaffirmed, is that there are activities this could complement,” he said. “We’ve got the swimming pool and the stadium. There will be an opportunity for the center to play off (those venues).”
The facility will offer space for school and community groups, interpretive displays on nature and health, offices, restrooms and a storage area.
Benson Kirkman, a former City Council member who led a planning exercise for the park, said the center could hold science classes from Athens Drive High School.
“We could build a really positive partnership with the school,” he said. “They could use nature education to enhance some of their classes. That’s part of the beauty and the challenge of integrating these things together.”
Last year, the city scuttled plans to put the center on a more secluded side of Lake Johnson after an advocacy group complained the facility would disturb the lake’s natural setting. The center would intrude into an area that should be protected, said the Friends of Lake Johnson, a group formed in 2003 to protect the lake and surrounding park from development.
Voters approved $2.6 million for a multipurpose facility as part of a 2007 parks bond.