Belmont leaders broke ground Aug. 28 on a park they hope will further open Lake Wylie to the public.
Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park sits on 11 acres along East Catawba Street. The park will include a canoe/kayak launch, amphitheater, picnic shelters, a playground, trails, restrooms and observation or fishing piers. Construction should be complete in April.
Named for the late former mayor and recreation supporter, city leaders called the park a fitting tribute to Loftin’s years of influence in Belmont.
“He wanted to preserve Belmont’s past,” said Tom Weathers, nephew of Kevin Loftin. “But he also knew we had to preserve Belmont’s future.”
The new park is a major part of that plan. Ted Hall, president of the Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce, likened the new park to a newly painted door when trying to sell a property. The future river district area adds appeal for people coming from Mecklenburg County, which could help further economic development.
“Investing here now is smart for Belmont,” Hall said, “ and very smart for Gaston County.”
Others focused on the impact for existing residents. Kelvin Reagan, chairman of the recreation advisory board in Belmont, said the waterfront park will be a shared asset.
“We’ve opened parks for baseball, soccer, everything,” he said. “And some of it hits kids at different ages. This park is going to hit a lot of people of all ages.”
Rebecca Richards, a Belmont native who lives nearby, said the walking trails most interest her, but she can see her son kayaking or the family sharing a cookout there.
“I live about four houses up,” Richards said. “It’s going to be uplifting for the community, for other people to come bring their kids.”
There’s still work to do. A nearby boat landing and park area will be closed during construction, including during Riversweep on Oct. 3. The landing was a past site for the annual lake cleanup, but won’t be used this year. Three houses also were removed to build the riverfront park.
Officials on Friday spoke with anticipation of finishing the project that began before the 2008 recession, and for honoring their late friend Loftin in the process.
“Kevin was a great guy,” said Mayor Charlie Martin, “and for us to be able to name this park after him is a special moment.”
John Marks: 803-831-8166