Plans for arboretum at Burlington park

BURLINGTON, N.C. -- Willowbrook Park follows a creek that winds its way between South Church Street and West Front Street in Burlington. It's a narrow strip of land. But it's big enough to keep kids entertained.

"My niece and nephew were here a couple of weeks ago," homeowner Sandra Reid said. "They shot outside as soon as they got here and started playing at the park."

Tom Flood is also a fan of Willowbrook Park. But as a landscape designer, he feels the park can be much more.

"It's a lovely little space. But it's an underutilized asset for the community. The transformation we are envisioning will bring more interest and beauty to the neighborhood,” Flood said.

Flood is a member of Alamance County's beautification group New Leaf Society. The organization needs to raise $2.3 million in order to turn Willowbrook Park into an arboretum. With input from the community, plans call for a pathway that will follow the creek, connecting gardens, seating areas and sculptures within Willowbrook Park. New Leaf was recently awarded an $85,000 grant for its proposed children's garden at the arboretum. Flood feels the space will be a hit with kids.

"A very interactive children's garden designed with more than two dozen activity elements to keep kids moving, interested and learning and engaged and outdoors."

Homeowners are carefully watching the project. They fear an arboretum could bring additional traffic. But Reid believes an improved park could be a plus for the community.

"Anytime you have the opportunity to walk, to be active I think it’s excellent."

Another public hearing about the proposed Burlington Arboretum at Willowbrook Park will be held at City Council Chambers at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6. New Leaf Society is looking break ground summer 2017.