08/10/08 — City parks: Play or pass?

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City parks: Play or pass?

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on August 10, 2008 1:53 PM

Tierea Atkins is dribbling a basketball at South End Park with his friend, Latrae McKinnon.

The two try to play there every day.

"Sometimes, we will come here at like 10 in the morning, and we won't leave until about 7 at night," Tierea said.

News-Argus/Mitch Loeber

Arnie Jones, left, drives the Kiwanis Special with Regina Sherrod, Joseph Sherrod, their daughters Kristen and Temira, Norma McDonough and Eric Foote in tow at Herman Park Saturday afternoon.

Other city parks are too far away, they said.

But at a June meeting of the Goldsboro City Council, Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen said South End is one of many parks that would be better off as green space.

The comment, a response to Parks and Recreation Director Sonya Shaw's $275,000 recommendation for repairs at the city's 11 parks, was paired with the notion of allowing basic maintenance of underutilized parks to be left to the neighborhoods that house them.

But in an interview earlier this week, Allen said the city could continue to mow grass at all the parks, but that any further costs, including those associated with playground equipment, basketball courts, baseball fields and picnic tables, should only be incurred at those parks with high usage.

"I do believe we need to go look at all of our parks and see if they are being utilized, because some of them may just be better off as green space," he said. "They may not need to be a park. We may need to give it to the neighborhood."

His view is that the city should have fewer, better-maintained and better-utilized parks, rather than more, poorly maintained, underutilized parks.

"I think we owe it to the citizens to provide good parks," Allen said. "We need to see if these parks are meeting the citizens' needs."

A green space, he said, would allow citizens in the area to still have a place to "throw a ball or walk a dog," but wouldn't have a lot of equipment that needed to be painted every so often or replaced every few years.

And selling the parks is not an option, he said.

The city would still carry all of the liability associated with a green space, but Allen doesn't see why less equipment would mean increased liability.

If anything, he said, there would be less.

"I think we are probably stuck with the land. I don't think there is any sellable park property," he said.

So the question, for him, becomes how much money does the council keep putting into the parks, and would the investment be worth it?

Allen said he doesn't see the popular parks as a problem.

They are being utilized.

Others, however, like Henry C. Mitchell Park, are a different story.

"Who knows where that is?" he said. "I don't even know where it is."

That is the roughly the same statement he made in June about South End, the place where Tierea and Latrae play basketball every day.

Allen also said he never sees people at Berkeley Park.

"I personally don't think they are used by the overall public, no," Allen said. "And Berkeley, I don't know who uses Berkeley. I just don't know."

Allen said all of the parks need to be looked over, and that those utilized most often are the ones that should
get the most money -- and maintenance.

And while he did not mention some of the city's other parks by name, he said the council should focus on three or four.

Mrs. Shaw said while no firm numbers exist to back the claim that any one park is used more than another, from what she has seen, Herman Park gets the most traffic.

Many residents go there to play tennis, use the playground or just to take a walk, she said.

On a recent summer afternoon, Mylissa Wydick and some of her friends were enjoying lunch there.

"We just decided it was a nice day, and there is a nice breeze, so we would eat outside," she said.

Judy Hills, a representative from the Eastern Carolina Council, did an analysis of the park system in May.

She also serves as the comprehensive plan writer for the city parks.

Mrs. Hills said Herman Park should be the city's "showcase park."

She created the prioritized list of needed repairs at the 11 parks, ordered based on usage -- the report that prompted Allen's comments in June.

Her findings included:

* Herman Park -- $34,075 needed to repair termite damage, paint the park house, paint gates, paint playground equipment, paint gazebo, paint bathrooms, repair benches and picnic tables, replace drinking fountain and grills, replace and add signs about park regulations, install bike racks and work to improve landscaping.

* Herman Park Center -- $32, 800 needed to paint the interior of the building, replace ceiling tiles and repair down spouts.

* Goldsboro Municipal Golf Course -- $15,000 needed to make repairs to drain lines, downspout extensions and the front area of the clubhouse.

* H.V. Brown -- $12,820 needed.

* North End Park -- $8,345 needed.

* Mina Weil Park -- $34,140 to $88,040 needed to renovate or resurface tennis and basketball courts.

* Peacock Park -- $1,030 needed.

* W.A. Foster Center -- $52,000 needed to seal mortar joints, repair and paint inside walls and repair foundation and pillars.

* Berkeley Park -- $32,210 needed.

* Fairview Park -- $6,520 needed.

* South End Park -- $450 needed.

* Quail Park -- $3,780 needed.

* Henry C. Mitchell Park -- $1,515 needed.

No formal decision has been made on which of the city's parks will receive the funding needed to deal with their particular issues.

Residents will have to wait and see whether or not their community favorites make the short list.

In the meantime, Joann Bizzell will continue to bring her five grandchildren to Mina Weil Park.

They like to play on the playground equipment, she said.

"They used to come out here more often with their dad, but then they stopped coming," she said. "Now, I'm trying to bring them more."