Defunct neighborhood starts a new chapter as a park
by Staff Writer
DAVIDSON – They’re not making any more land, so the saying goes.
And it’s not every day a new world gets opened up for hiking, biking and exploring.
Sunday afternoon, the Davidson Lands Conservancy and Mecklenburg Park and Recreation helped residents celebrate the future of the former Abersham development. The preservation group combined its annual meeting with a festive community celebration, held under tents near a gateway into the site.
The roughly 229-acre Abersham property, together with adjacent county lands and Fisher Farm Park, form some 500 acres of land. The land including woods and wildlife habitat, will now be largely preserved for generations to come.
“This is truly exciting,” said Pam Dykstra, president of the Davidson Lands Conservancy Board of Directors.
She praised Mecklenburg County officials and all involved for helping preserve the land.
“It’s clean air, clean water, emotional and mental health, a sense of identity for children and adults,” she said.
Sunday’s activities included bird walks and a nature hike, and both had to be expanded, Dykstra said, to meet demand.
Which, she said, was no problem.
“There’s an incredible need for this,” she said of the kinds of outdoor recreation Sunday’s event featured.
“We’ve spent a few centuries taking habitat away from the wildlife. It’s high time to give back,” Joe Kaestner of Wild Birds Unlimited said.
He hopes the Abersham property and other lands will provide food and shelter for native birds.
“We want them all to be here for our kids and grandkids. This is the way to do it,” Kaestner said.
Nearby, Davidson College student Jackie Barry introduced kids and adults to Clover, a six-month-old red-tailed hawk.
“It’s pretty awesome to know there’s still some wild and natural land around here for hawks to be exploring,” Barry said.
Jim Garges, director of Mecklenburg Park and Recreation, said he was pleased with the preservation of the Abersham property. A partnership with the Trust for Public Land and county officials, Garges said, had enabled the project to go forward. Slade Gleaton, senior project manager for the Trust for Public Land praised the partnership.
“By protecting land like this, you have an opportunity for people to come out and recreate,” Gleaton said.
Lands Conservancy Executive Director Roy Alexander said he looks forward to the next step: a series of public discussions about how the land could be used. The lands conservancy will advocate for a variety of uses – perhaps, Alexander said, incubator farms for local produce growers to lease small parcels.
Even, Alexander said, “a green cemetery, a natural burial area,” for people who don’t wish to be embalmed, might find a place on the site.
For now, Davidson Parks and Recreation Manager Kathryn Spatz has no preconceived ideas. She said she hopes a “a citizen-driven committee from neighbors, residents, and other groups” will weigh in to help plan the park’s future. With a dawn-to-dusk schedule and plenty of paved roads, Spatz said the park will accommodate walkers and cyclists best of all in the near term.
As the afternoon went on, Bill Latham, a member of the Davidson Land Conservancy board for about five years, spoke philosophically of what it meant to have preserved the land.
“There’s a benefit to your soul to do this,” Latham said.