A 96-year-old barn in Mint Hill will be demolished next week to make room for a 3,000-square-foot community garden.
The red barn at 4101 Mintwood Drive sits on about 33 acres at the future Mecklenburg County Ezell Farms Community Park. The land was sold to Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation in 2001 and included on a parks master plan in 2008, but the recession stalled the project. There’s no funding for the park now and officials won’t be able to request any cash from county commissioners until at least until fiscal year 2015, said Lee Jones, park division director of capital planning and alliance development.
At the request of Mint Hill officials, work began last fall to implement a community garden and open “play meadows” with parking for town residents to use, Jones said. The “best location” for the garden is near where the barn is, he said, which is a “safety hazard.”
The 20-plot garden will be built by county parks staff and officials may seek help from Mint Hill officials and community volunteers, Jones said. Applications are available online at www.minthill.com and will be assigned on a first come, first served basis. Officials expect to have the garden ready by the second week of April.
The barn isn’t structurally sound and preliminary estimates show the cost of restoration at $50,000, Jones said. The tin roof, which contained asbestos, has been removed and a metal chain has been tied around the building. The county has been granted a demolition permit and the barn will come down during the week of March 25, Jones said. Volunteers from the nonprofit Mint Hill Historical Society will be allowed to reclaim some of the wood from the building, he said.
“We just didn’t have any funding set aside (to restore the barn) and I don’t believe the town did either,” Jones said. “We have concerns about the safety of it being there. We just didn’t want it to be a place for people to go in and get hurt or attract the wrong element because it’s not secured.”
Dan Morrill, director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, urged officials in January to save the structure, according to an email from Morrill to Park Operations Superintendent Peter Cook. The structure wouldn’t qualify for full restoration, but if fixed up the barn could be used as storage for the garden, Morrill said.
“Barns are fast disappearing from Mecklenburg County, and they certainly document the agricultural heritage of our community. I would be interested in exploring the possibility of stabilizing the barn and using it as a storage facility for activities associated with a community garden,” he said in the email. “In my opinion, it would enhance the special nature of the park and would win support in the Mint Hill community.”
Mint Hill Commissioner Tina Ross said the county’s decision doesn’t make sense.
“It’s more than a tad ironic that a passive park being planned to recognize the agrarian past and pay tribute to our agricultural history would actually demolish a real part of that history in the re-creation of its story,” she said. “ … Apparently the folks tasked with ‘creating’ our history don’t put a very high value on the real thing.”
Want to garden?
Twenty 10-by-15-foot plots are available at the new Ezell Farm Park Community Garden. Cost is $15 per year which includes compost, mulch and water. The garden will be ready by the second week of April.
Applications are available online at www.minthill.com.