Planning is under way for a new park in Southport.

The park is slated for the Taylor Field property, a 4.72-acre tract located at 409 East Nash Street. The Harper family donated the land to the city in September 2017 with the caveat that it be used for recreational purposes.

The land appraised at $397,500. The city intends to use the appraised value of the land to apply for a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant, which provides dollar-for-dollar matching grants to local governments for parks and recreational projects.

To determine what use would best serve the citizens, the city gathered public input during the summer of 2018. The suggestions ranged from an athletic complex to open space.

Staff and the parks and recreation advisory board took the input and compiled a list of items to be included in an engineering plan for the park. The items to be included are: an amphitheater, walking and nature trails with connectivity to Lowe-White Memorial Park, an outdoor fitness trail, a picnic shelter area, landscaping, benches, green space and parking.

The city then advertised for qualifications from interested engineering firms. Proposals were due on February 12. Staff reviewed the submissions, and city manager Bruce Oakley presented staff’s recommendation to the board in a special meeting on February 26.

“Staff reviewed these, and we had some great firms submit,” he said. “But McGill Associates was the best. We want to recommend them.”

Oakley explained that he had consulted with the attorney, and it wasn’t necessary for the board to vote granting the city manager the authority to negotiate an agreement with McGill Associates.

“We think the numbers are going to come in where I technically didn’t need authorization,” Oakley said. “I just wanted to let y’all know that we’ve got it.”

Alderman Lora Sharkey asked Oakley to give the board an example of why McGill’s proposal stood out from the other firms’ submissions.

“They have done a lot of PARTF grant applications, and they’ve been very successful,” Oakley said. “They have an office in Shallotte — by far the closest firm. We’ve worked with them before in the city, and they’ve been very helpful, and they have local ties here too. They just really stood out to us.”

“I noticed in the proposal that they would be doing some stakeholder meetings and things like that, which are important,” Sharkey noted.

Alderman Karen Mosteller added that McGill Associates had completed projects in several surrounding municipalities, including Boiling Spring Lakes, Oak Island, Leland and Brunswick County.

“And they got PARTF grants for Ocean Isle and Sunset Beach too,” added city attorney Mike Isenberg.

Parks and recreation director Heather Hemphill said that the staff was “very impressed” with McGill Associates.

According to the contract, McGill will receive a lump sum payment of $17,000 to create a park master plan for Taylor Field, and a lump sum payment of $11,000 to handle the PARTF grant application for the city.

Mosteller said McGill would present the plans for the park during the Southport Planning Board’s next regular meeting on Thursday, March 21, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at the fire substation on East Nash Street.

The planning board will then submit the final plan to the board of aldermen for consideration at its regular meeting on Thursday, April 11, with the PARTF grant application submitted by April 30.