Park is gift to the people

Published 6:36 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Several years ago when the Washington City Council gave the green light to the Festival Park project, some people questioned whether using city money to help build the park was a wise use of taxpayers’ money.

It was a wise use. Not only is Festival Park regularly used for “public” functions such as Summer Festivals, Fourth of July celebrations, the Downtown Motown event (it’s returning Aug. 24). The Beaufort County Music Festival and the like, it’s also used for private functions such as weddings. It’s a facility much used and appreciated by the public.

Some folks — mostly those with young children — make use of Papa’s Playground. Others make use of the picnic pavilion. The point is that Festival Park is being used.

One of Festival Park’s regular users in the Washington Harbor District Alliance, which uses Festival Park for a number of its events, such as last year’s Downtown Motown presentation and the new Harmony on the Harbor series that made its debut earlier this spring. Joining WHDA in presenting the free concerts on Sundays is the City of Washington, Beaufort County Art Council, Beaufort County Traditional Music Association and the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.

Councilman Doug Mercer is impressed by Harmony on the Harbor. It talked about it earlier this week at a City Council meeting after Beth Byrd, WHDA director, talked about upcoming WHDA-related events.

“Mr. Mayor, while Beth is standing there, we had a new event — two Sundays ago, now — and they put it together in about four days. It was small crowd, but I thought it was a good event. You’ve got Harmony on the Harbor again next Sunday. … I think that’s a nice event for a Sunday afternoon. It’s a freebie, and I think that crowd that was there enjoyed it,” Mercer said.

A year ago this week, Festival Park was dedicated as a gift to the people. One could say it’s a gift that continues to give.

In September 2010, the city accepted a $295,125 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to help begin the project. The city is provided a matching $295,125 toward the project.

It was money well spent.

City residents have an ownership interest in Festival Park because they helped plan it and pay for it. With that ownership interest comes a measure of pride — pride to make sure Festival Park is protected from abuse and properly maintained.

The new performance pavilion, the new picnic gazebo and Papa’s Playground (the children’s playground that honors the memory of Gary Tomasulo, a champion of downtown Washington who died in a tragic fall Labor Day 2009) that are visible are just the first pieces of the initial phases of the Festival Park project.

It’s your park. While taking pride in it, help protect it.

Make use of Festival Park, whether it is for a public event such as a festival or a private event such as a wedding.