Gastonia couple start petition to save park after city officials lean toward replacing green space with apartments

Updated: May. 7, 2019 at 7:11 PM EDT
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GASTONIA, NC (WBTV) - It’s a issue many of us face in our communities – use land to build more houses and apartments, or save the green space for parks? In Gastonia, city leaders are looking to grow the downtown area and build over Center City Park with apartments that would hold more than 100 units.

There’s now a petition to persuade leaders to keep the park. Many believe Center City Park is the staple of downtown Gastonia.

Heather Burks and her husband Walter are behind the petition.

“It’s a gem stone in the middle of downtown, this shouldn’t have to go away,” said Heather.

It’s easy to see why the couple loves the green space. It’s a beautiful layout with nice art work. You can stroll through with your pet and enjoy the free little library.

“I’ve always loved it down here and enjoyed the park,” Walter added.

The passion the couple has for this park is why they created the petition. So far it has more than 1,000 signatures. They tell WBTV’s Bria Bell they don’t think it would be a good idea for the city to get rid of the piece of nature just for some apartments.

“We really want to be proactive and make sure that we get out ahead of this so that it doesn’t get ahead of us,” said Walter.

Not everyone feels the same way. Jim Morasso says the green could go.

“I’m one of those people who want to walk my dog in the park, but I also realize, I want to share this with 120 to 200 other people,” said Morasso.

Morasso owns Webb Custom Kitchen, a restaurant right around the corner from the park. He says people need to get past their emotional ties to the park and realize the apartments mean growth is on the horizon for Gastonia.

“A critical mass of people is what it takes to grow a city or a small town. This city is poised for that,” Morasso said.

The Burks want city leaders to consider using the abandoned buildings around downtown for the apartments, but city officials sent a note that said: “The City would love to have some of those buildings developed into residential units. However, those buildings are privately owned. The City cannot exercise control over them.”

If residents have to say goodbye to the green space to make living space, officials say there are other spots around the area to build another park.

City leaders say Center City Park was built about 10 years ago to beautify the city, but it was also just a temporary thing until they could figure out what they wanted to do with the spot. Officials say the plan was to always build something there.

The city has not received a proposed plan for apartments, conversations with developers are in the very early stages.

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