The city has backed away from plans to build a nature center on the eastern side of Lake Johnson amid concerns over disrupting the lake’s natural setting.
City Council members said they would explore other sites for the center, intended to provide a resting spot for hikers and classroom space for school groups to learn about the environment.
The decision comes after opposition from the Friends of Lake Johnson, an advocacy group formed to protect the lake and surrounding park from development.
The group criticized Raleigh’s proposal to use the "Friends Property,” a 12-acre area off Lake Dam Road acquired by the city in 2002.
“If you start filling it with a building and parking lots, it changes the whole use and perspective of that site,” said Benson Kirkman, the group’s chairman and a former City Council member.
The issue has already simmered for months. A nine-member citizens group scouted two other potential sites - a spot next to the park's swimming pool behind Athens Drive High School and an existing conference center known as the Magnolia Cottage.
But each location posed problems. The pool site sits too close to noisy school and recreational activities, parks officials said. The cottage is often rented for parties and meetings, and doesn't offer much room for expansion.
The Friends Property offered several advantages, parks and recreation director Diane Sauer said.
Situated on a popular trail, the site would let hikers take a break at one of the furthest points from the park's existing waterfront center, Sauer wrote in a memo.
There’s enough space to build the center away from the lake so it won't disrupt the view, parks officials said.
But those arguments did not sway the Friends of Lake Johnson. Kirkman raised concerns about the size of a proposed parking lot and a design plan that called for installing a septic tank as part of the center.
The facility will bring too many intrusions to an area that should be protected, Kirkman said.
City Council members agreed to delay a decision while they spend more time listening to the public and exploring other possible locations.