Whitehall Comes to Life with Your Voice

https://projectsurveys.com/whitehall-comes-to-life-with-your-voice/?utm_source=webpage&utm_medium=whitehallpage&utm_ad=infoThe Town of Southern Pines acquired the 157-acre tract of land, known Survey Opens in new windowas the Whitehall property, in December 2020. The Town paid $1.65 million for the property located at 490 Pee Dee Road. Reservoir Park directly abuts Whitehall to the north and includes access via an existing 2-mile walking/biking trail. There are also trail connections from Elizabeth Rounds playground.

WHY WHITEHALL IS SPECIAL

Whitehall was thoughtfully cared for by its previous owners and the property offers 157 acres of natural lands that highlight the native ecosystems of Southern Pines, particularly the longleaf pine forest.  Whitehall is home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and the property is registered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Safe Harbor program which helps conserve their native habitats.  The property is also part of the Southeast Longleaf Pine Ecosystem Occurrences Geodatabase (LEO), a comprehensive database of longleaf pine forests to inform conservation and restoration planning. 

While longleaf pines were once prominently found through the southeastern United States, covering 90 million acres from Virginia to east Texas. The once-vast longleaf forests have almost all but disappeared as they were used to provide timber for Colonial homes and sailing ships as well as tar and turpentine. They have also been lost to clearcutting, development, and fire suppression, as they rely on fire to survive (and thrive). Today, less than 5% of the historic longleaf forest remains and we are lucky to to find it in the Sandhills area.

In addition to their beauty, healthy longleaf pine forests provide many benefits to both humans and wildlife. They support our freshwater systems, provide natural resilience to catastrophic storms, and help sustain the regional economy. They also provide habitats for threatened and endangered species including the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoises, pine snakes, and dusky gopher frogs. 

The Three Rivers Land Trust holds a conservation easement on 66.39 of the total 157 acres at Whitehall. This is a voluntary, legal action that protects the land’s conservation values to ensure that future generations can enjoy it for many years to come. The conservation easement on Whitehall permits the Town to open the property to the public, provided enhancements are sensitive to the efforts that have been undertaken to protect this property. 

Please enjoy this video which takes you on a birds eye view of Whitehall. The video was produced by the Southern Pines Appearance Commission for Arbor Day 2022, which was hosted at Whitehall.

WHO IS GUIDING SOUTHERN PINES ON THIS IMPORTANT PROJECT

It is the Town's goal that the Southern Pines community can enjoy the beauty of Whitehall and the passive recreation opportunities it can offer, while still being sensitive to the natural ecology. In June 2022, the Town hired two firms who have specialized knowledge and expertise to help accomplish these goals by preparing a master plan to open Whitehall as a community park for passive recreation. 

CPL is a multi-disciplinary firm who is guiding the site planning, landscape architecture, and public input processes for Whitehall. The Town selected CPL for this project because they approach their landscape architecture designs with the philosophy that we are "stewards of the laButterfly girlnd" and have been recognized across the world for their site-sensitive designs. Their work respects this philosophy by incorporating two important principles:

  1. "Tread lightly on the land." CPL tailors their designs to fit the land, rather than altering it to fit a design. Wholesale alterations to the land destroy natural beauty. The Town knows that we, as a community, are stewards of the Whitehall land, just as the owners before us were. This property does not need - or deserve - major alterations that will destroy its natural beauty and habitat. Therefore, it is our goal to "tread lightly" as we enhance the property for public passive recreation uses.
  2. "Parks and trails are for the people." A park system is one of the major contributors to the overall quality of life in a community and this is certainly true in Southern Pines. Public parks and trails offer people the opportunity to exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and participate in activities they can't enjoy in their own living spaces. The Town purchased the Whitehall property to open it to the community as a public park with passive recreation opportunities. We know that when designed well, parks can provide the functional facilities needed by the public without compromising the natural features of a property like Whitehall.

Creech & Associates is providing the architectural services for this project. In addition to the 157 acres of land, the Town's purchase included the 6,000 square foot home, a large barn, and a garage building. Now, the Town needs to determine how to creatively adapt these residential structures for public use in a way that respects the design aesthetic. Creech has worked with the Town on a number of projects in the past, including a full facilities condition assessment for these three structures in 2021. Creech is known for their thoughtful civic designs that are generated from dialogue with the community.

Over the next several months, the Town will be seeking feedback from the community on how to use this property with the goal that the resulting master plan should be creative, feasible, sustainable and thoughtful, highlighting the unique environmental qualities of this special property. With this in mind, the Southern Pines community will be able to enjoy Whitehall as a passive recreation park with a design that "treads lightly on the land."

GET INVOLVED & SHARE YOUR VOICE!

The Town has involved the community in sharing ideas and feedback on how to use the property for passive recreation, as well as opportunities for the existing house, barn, and garage that can be self-sustaining from a financial input. To date, input has included:

  • Approximately 35 community members attended a public input meeting on August 23, 2022 to share ideas and feedback.
  • Various stakeholders met with the design team to offer their knowledge and expertise on the property and important considerations for the design, including the need for forest management and controlled burns, protecting the red cockaded woodpecker and other valuable insights.
  • Get involved by completing our online survey to share your own ideas, concerns, and feedback. 
  • Contact our project team to share questions, concerns, ideas or other feedback:

The designers will use all of the input received to thoughtfully consider appropriate passive recreation uses for Whitehall as we move through the next steps in developing the Whitehall master plan.

OUR PROCESS TO DEVELOP THE WHITEHALL MASTER PLAN

Step #1: Pre-Planning Data Collection & Research (this is where we are now!)

  • Data collection and site assessments (nearly finished)
  • Inventory and analyze existing Southern Pines park facilities (underway)
  • Public Input Meeting #1 (completed August 23, 2022)
  • Stakeholder interviews (underway)
  • Online survey (launched mid August and open through mid October)
  • Recreation needs assessment and gap analysis for Whitehall (underway)True meaning of life

Step #2: Recommendations & Program Development

  • Draft recommendations for Whitehall, including gap analysis
  • Review recommendations with staff
  • Public Meeting #2 - review recommendations with community (date TBA)

Step #3: Whitehall Master Plan

  • Prepare final draft recommendations for Whitehall program and facilities
  • Prepare final draft concept designs for Whitehall site and buildings
  • Review final drafts with Town Council and staff and revise accordingly, as needed
  • Public Meeting #3 - presentation of final master plan for public comments (date TBA)
  • Town Council adopts Whitehall master plan

We hope you'll join us in these important efforts to bring Whitehall to life! Southern Pines owes gratitude to Whitehall's previous owners for protecting this important piece of property and to the Town Council for taking action when the opportunity arose to acquire Whitehall. It is up to the community now to help plan for and continue caring for Whitehall so that it can be enjoyed for future generations. Stay tuned to this page for details on this process.