Nostalgia and an interest in local history once again entered into the discussion last week as town commissioners talked about ways to upgrade Falcon Park, the town’s oldest public park, believed to date back to the early 1950s.
Withers and Ravenel, a consulting company hired to develop a master plan for the park, presented to the board drawings and a report suggesting ways the park might be laid out, what might be included, and also setting out a three-phase scenario that could be followed.
The first phase of the Withers and Ravenel proposal calls for taking down the existing picnic shelter and replacing it with a more modern structure. Also new playground equipment is included. The future of the picnic pavilion set commissioners talking once more—as they have in the past—about the cost and the importance of saving the dilapidated shelter for its historic value.
Withers and Ravenel has estimated the cost of a basic cosmetic renovation of the existing shelter at $50,000. Complete demolition and reconstruction would cost an estimated $100,000, the company indicates. Demolition and installation of a prefabricated shelter, similar to those in several other town parks, would cost about $32,500.
Along the way, at least two commissioners expressed reservations about including in a later phase of the master plan a splash pad where children could play in water and be splashed with more water from overhead. Estimated cost of a splash pad is $50,000, according to the study.
Commissioners began talking about renovations at Falcon Park soon after the town obtained some adjacent land where, for years, there was a privately owned and operated swim club. The swimming pool has since been filled in.
In the two other phases of the Withers and Ravenel plan, the company has suggested demolishing the existing restroom building and replacing it with a more modern structure on a different site but one close enough to the old one to be served by existing water and sewer lines.
In each phase sidewalks, benches, play equipment and other cosmetic improvements are included.
Last week the board voted to accept the report from the landscape architects but took no action to move ahead with implementing it. Within the past two to three years, some improvements have been made using funds left over from other capital projects. A major project was renovation of the Falcon Park Hut. Funds remaining in the account earmarked for the park total about $50,000.
Commissioner Charlie Adcock, one of those interested in keeping the park’s traditional style and quaintness, said he would like to wait to take any action to see what local historian Shirley Simmons finds as she researches Falcon Park’s history.
Adcock also noted that he had indicated much earlier in discussions of park improvements that he would not favor a splash pad. Commissioner Cindy Sheldon also expressed reservations about a splash pad. She said the park is across Ennis Street from the middle school and she thinks such a facility would draw mischievous students like a magnet.
Commissioner Jim Abernathy reiterated his earlier remarks favoring a more traditional theme in the park. He said many people he has talked to agree. Commissioner Bill Harris spoke in favor of a splash pad, noting that numerous responders to the public survey had mentioned their interest in such equipment. He suggested playing in the water would help ready children for learning to swim.
The town sought public input on improvements at the park through a public meeting and through online suggestions. Results were turned over to Withers and Ravenel for consideration as they developed their plan proposal.