Havens Gardens wheel to change locations

Published 7:44 pm Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The big wheel at Havens Gardens will be moved eastward on the waterfront park.

That was the decision by the Washington City Council during its meeting Monday. The council voted 4-1 to relocate the big wheel — apparently the flywheel of a steam engine at the Mason Lumber Co. in Columbia — to the bridge side of the park, next to the N.C. Highway 32 bridge that connects Washington and Washington Park. That was the option recommended by the city’s Recreation Advisory Committee. Council members William Pitt, Richard Brooks, Virginia Finnerty and Larry Beeman voted for that site. Councilman Doug Mercer voted against that move.

The council considered two other options, move the wheel adjacent to the boat ramps on the northeast side of the park or storing the wheel at the city warehouse until a suitable location for it can be determined. Mercer suggested storing the wheel until all upgrades at Havens Gardens and its realignment are completed to avoid possibly having to move the wheel again as those activities take place.

The wheel must be relocated so equipment for the Play Together playground can be installed to make the park more accessible for disabled or handicapped children, according to a memorandum from Kristi Roberson, the city’s parks and recreation manager, to the mayor and council members.

Several speakers — Derik Davis, Dee Congleton, Ray Midgette, Cherie Barber and John Mason — made it clear they want the wheel to remain a fixture at the waterfront park. Congleton, representing the Washington Area Historic Foundation, said the wheel is “a landmark of the area.” Midgette, representing the Historic Port of Washington project, said if the wheel has ties to a sawmill or lumberyard in the area, the city should consider preserving it and “placing it in a location where it can be interpreted, maybe some signage to explain the historical significance of that item.” Midgette also wants the wheel accessible to the public.

Although some speakers mentioned the uncertainty of the wheel’s history, that was not the case with Mason, who said he would pay for a plaque to tell the wheel’s story. Mason said the wheel was used at his family’s lumberyard in Columbia. Mason said his parents ran that facility for his grandfather Marvin Mason, who also owned a lumber company in Washington. In 1971, the wheel was donated to the city for display at Havens Gardens, according to Mason.

Davis and Barber said the wheel is engrained in the area’s history, with several generations of children playing on the wheel and having photographs taken of them with the wheel.




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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