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Park dedicated as a gift to citizens

Participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony during the dedication of Festival Park on Friday are (from left) Councilman Bobby Roberson, Ross Hamory, Joe Taylor, Mayor Archie Jennings and Phil Mobley, the city’s parks and recreation director. (WDN Photo/Mike Voss)

Aside from the appreciative and congratulatory words spoken during the dedication of Washington’s waterfront Festival Park on Friday, it was fitting that part of the park, Papa’s Playground, was being used by children.

“The thing I think about Festival Park and Papa’s Playground that is so significant is that it means so many different things to the community,” Mayor Archie Jennings said. “Obviously, it’s a much enjoyed and delighted in playground. It’s great venue for any event the community will need to hold. It’s a great tribute as well to the natural beauty of the area. Obviously, it’s much more than that. It’s a fitting memorial for our friend Gary (Tomasulo). It’s a tribute and a demonstration, if you will, of a grassroots effort and a gift back to the community in the form of access to the river for everybody in every walk of life. That’s a perpetual gift.”

Jennings said Friday’s event was more of a celebration than a dedication.

“This is a celebration of what this means to the community and the fact that the community made it happen,” he said. “It’s a demonstration again of what government can do for us instead of to us.”

Tomasulo, who opened La Bella Pizzeria in downtown Washington in July 2009, died after falling from a fire escape on a downtown building on Labor Day 2009. Tomasulo, president of the Historic Downtown Washington Merchants Association at the time of his death, was working in and around an apartment located above Main Street Scoops, a building that he purchased earlier that year, when he fell some three stories.

After his death, Tomasulo’s family established the Gary Tomasulo Downtown Washington Playground Fund. At a City Council meeting in February 2011, Tomasulo’s widow, Marie, presented a $25,000 check to the city to help pay for the playground.

“”I think one of the biggest benefits of this park, in getting it going, is the momentum it’s given us for the downtown,” said Ross Hamory, a member of the committee that helped plan the park. “I mean not just this park, but Harding Square, the fact that we now have a grant for bathroom and boaters’ facilities at the other end (of the waterfront). By going through the community process, the planning, the public hearings, the work with the City Council, it got us focused on the waterfront. It developed a plan for us to move forward, and this is the first phase of the plan. The second phase is right behind it. Hopefully within four or five months we’ll be breaking ground on the other end. It just keeps going.”

Hamory said the park is the result of many individuals working together for the great good of the community.

“To me it’s a demonstration of how good things can happen if people get focused,” Hamory said.

Hamory praised Joe Taylor, chairman of the city’s Recreation Advisory Committee and the park planning committee, for spearheading the park project and keeping committee members in line.

“When we wanted different styles and different things, Joe was a good taskmaster. He got it done,” Hamory said.

About 60 people attending the dedication.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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