A 25-acre tract of land that’s mostly wooded will stay that way in the future, thanks to a donation to the city by the heirs of Jack Eugene Hauser, who died in 2018, and the granting of a conservation easement to the Piedmont Land Conservancy.
And even though a section of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway will pass on the southwest side of the property, William Royston, the city’s recreation and parks director, says he’s confident that the land is big enough and the woods thick enough to still give walkers and nature enthusiasts reason to go.
“I think it is going to be a tremendous resource and asset, especially for the residents on this side of town,” Royston said on Wednesday, as he stood near old farm buildings that included a barn, a cabin and other structures.
The city is still closing on the property, and decisions about which structures to preserve and how to use the site are yet to be made. But one of the conditions of the donation was that its use be limited to “passive recreational activities.”
People are also reading…
That means the city can use the land for wildlife viewing, nature photography, picnicking, walking, horseback riding and learning about the land’s history. But the park would not have ball fields or similar facilities.
The land is located toward the southern end of Jonestown Road, just north of the Little Creek bridge and on the southwest side of the road as it curves north toward U.S. 421.
The donation is being carved out of a larger group of tracts known as the Evergreen Farm, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019. The buildings on the new city park property are not considered historically significant.
The core historic buildings, including a farm house built in 1896, remain in the Hauser family. The farm was the work of James Monroe “Ploughboy” Jarvis, who set up the farm on some 88 acres and who died in 1947.
The property contains a 1,700-square foot brick ranch house built in 1963, a barn, shop buildings and sheds. A gravel and dirt road leads off Ploughboy Lane coming from Jonestown, and snakes its way down into the property.
In the 1950s, the northern end of what will be the city park was planted in pine trees that are now mature. The rest of the site is largely given over to a mixed stand of hardwoods, with open clearings that will be kept mowed.
One of the first things Royston said he will probably do is get in touch with the Audubon Society, so members can come out and explore what kinds of birds and other animal life are using the property.
At some point, Royston said, the city would likely hire a consultant to help plan the future of the park. The park could be used as a place to hold weddings, he said, and could possibly have picnic tables or a shelter.
The section of the beltway that lies along the southwestern boundary of the new city park land is the last section scheduled for construction, according to Pat Ivey, the division engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation in Forsyth County.
Currently, most of that section is unfunded, Ivey said.
“It will definitely be after 2030,” Ivey said. “We don’t have a specific time frame.”
Beltway work is currently focused on building the eastern section of the freeway, which will link U.S. 52 with the existing section of Interstate 74 (formerly U.S. 311) on the southeastern side of Winston-Salem.
Ivey said the transportation department does not ordinarily put in noise walls for a vacant property such as a park. There is also housing nearby, but whether the area will qualify for noise walls is a question that will have to be answered later, he said.
“Typically, noise protection is for the benefit of residents,” Ivey said. “We will have to do noise studies on the western side, and it will be several years before it is done. We would not typically install a wall (for a park), but we might do a vegetative barrier.”
Beltway or not, the city is clearly not discouraging what is, after all, a donation.
The new park land is in the Southwest Ward. Kevin Mundy, the council member for that ward, publicly thanked to the Hauser family during a recent meeting of the city’s Finance Committee.
“This is good news, and I want to … just plant the seed with anyone else who has land that they would like for us to use,” Mundy said.