Make it official

Published 9:53 am Thursday, November 13, 2008

By Staff
Washington City Council’s decision to consider designating the green space between the North Carolina Estuarium and the former Evans Seafood property (next to the former Maola building) that the city owns as park space should be comforting to many people.
In recent years, many people have advised — some have demanded — the city use that open space as a park.
During the council’s meeting Monday, Councilman Archie Jennings added an item to the council’s agenda. That item dealt with designating that open space as a park. When the council began discussing the item, Jennings said he considers that green space an ideal place for a “town commons.”
Jennings said the city should “make official what the public seems to assume” — that open space is a public park.
Jennings’ suggestion makes sense.
But to make it perfectly clear, his recommendation applies to the green space between the Estuarium and the former Maola building, not to the former Evans Seafood property, which the city bought and plans to sell for commercial-development purposes. Just what type of development may happen on that lot, about a quarter-acre, has yet to be determined.
The idea to preserve the open space in question is not a new one, but it has received renewed attention in the past 18 months to two years as proposals concerning what to do with the former Evans Seafood property and adjacent green space have surfaced.
Many people have adopted Jennings’ view that the green space between the Estuarium and the former Maola building is a town commons. In essence, it is a de facto public park. People come there to play with their pets. They come there to picnic. When groups of school children visit the Estuarium, those groups, for the most part, will eat lunch on those grounds. People toss footballs there. People throw Frisbees there. Some people, during the summer months, warm themselves as they nap.
The city should give serious consideration to designating that land as a park.
As Joe Taylor, chairman of the city’s Recreation Advisory Committee noted in a report he presented to the council, a city with a good parks system will attract more people, tourists and potential residents. A good parks system provides a good first impression when visitors come to a city or town, Taylor told the council.
Taylor, who attended a parks-related seminar in Greenville last month, said a good parks system helps a local economy by encouraging visitors and tourism, enhances property values, attracts retirees and helps deter crime.
Designating the green space between the Estuarium and the former Maola building as a park would also provide area residents an assurance of public access to the Pamlico River. It could remove their fears that the open space will be developed.
If that area is designated as a park, it would behoove the city to make some improvements there. Although most of that land would best be left as open space that could be used for many activities, some amenities such as picnic tables, a volleyball net and, perhaps, a dog park would be appropriate.
Jennings is right. The public already uses that area as a park. It’s time for the city to make it official.