Westgate Nature Park visitors express concerns about development

LELAND, NC (WWAY)– The Town of Leland is rapidly growing, and with growth comes development.   

People who use the Westgate Nature Park are noticing the lack of nature following development on the privately-owned land on one side of the walking trail.

“I think this sign is ironic because it’s like what nature park?” said Kerry Christo, Leland resident and park visitor. 

Residents are speaking out over rapid development happening around the Westgate Nature Park. 

“The nature park isn’t a nature park anymore. When you walk down it all you can hear is tracks on trucks moving,” said John Pigford, Leland resident and park visitor. 

Over the last six months, trees that surrounded the nature park have been cut down and replaced with fences and construction equipment.  

“Welcome to the Town of Leland where you’ve got a nice big fence to walk down the road with,” said Pigford.    

“It’s just so sad that in a year and a half it’s gone. It doesn’t exist anymore,” said Christo.  

The Town of Leland says it does not own the land on the left side of the nature park that is currently being developed.   

“As it currently stands, the development that is occurring in those areas is allowed by the zoning. Private property owners have the right to do with their property as they wish. So, the town is only following the rules, ordinances, and laws that allow for that type of development to occur,” said Wyatt Richardson, the Town of Leland’s Community Enrichment Director.

Richardson says a park was never the long-term goal for that specific area.   

“When we originally purchased that property, it was purchased as right-of-way. It was never intended to specifically be a park. But to meet the short-term needs of the community, a park was put in that place. Long term, the park could be replaced on the other side of Jackie’s Creek, although that’s not on the town’s short-term list of desires,” said Richardson.    

Richardson says the nature park will eventually be replaced with infrastructure to accommodate Leland’s growth, and the town is working to put other parks in the area.    

“Over time we’ve been adding more property to our conservation district which kind of fits that park need. The town will continue to look at that over time, and as opportunities present themselves, we will continue to explore those,” said Richardson.  

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