Pasquotank board: Newland park 'on the radar'


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, July 16, 2018

A new park in northern Pasquotank County is “on the radar,” county commissioners said last week.

Commissioners offered early support for a park in Newland after an area resident, Montrose Hinton, said there's widespread community support for one. She also presented commissioners a petition that's garnered more than 300 signatures, and asked commissioners set aside money for the project.

“People are shut up too much inside the house,” she said. “In this petition, over 300 people, both black and white, in the community, are excited about this.”

Hinton, a 64-year-old retired educator, said northern Pasquotank's only outdoor offerings are at school facilities.

Even a walking trail and picnic tables would be a great boon for Newland, she said, adding the area is seeing new housing construction and needs assets to keep young people there.

Hinton did not mention Newland's proximity to Dismal Swamp State Park. For residents with transportation, it's a short drive to the park's trails and picnic areas.

Pasquotank Commissioner Joe Winslow, who represents Newland, said residents have often told him they need a park, and he agrees.

Board Vice Chairman Bill Sterritt also agreed, telling Hinton a Newland park is “on the radar.”

“There are 64 areas in Elizabeth City where people can participate in parks and recreation,” he said. “We hope you are number 65.”

Hinton also noted the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Parks and Recreation master plan supports the case for a new park in northern Pasquotank. That plan, adopted in 2016, shows the Parks and Recreation Department's facilities are concentrated in Elizabeth City; the northern-most facility it identifies are camping platforms on Northside Road.

The document also notes that seniors living in western and northern Pasquotank lack “good access” to a senior center. The only senior center in Pasquotank is in northern Elizabeth City, at Knobbs Creek Recreation Center. Elizabeth City officials have said for months a new, larger senior center is needed, but haven't yet found the $1 million or more needed to build a new facility.

Though commissioners support a Newland park in concept, neither Hinton nor county officials know where it would go.

County Manager Sparty Hammett said later that the costs of the park, including land acquisition and development, are unknown. It's possible the Parks and Recreation Department would seek grants to offset those costs, he added.

Commissioner Frankie Meads also suggested to Hinton that she ask Linwood Williams, a home-builder and retired school superintendent, for help on the project. She agreed to reach out to him.

Pasquotank hasn't made a major investment in a new park facility since contributing more than $200,000 to renovating the former Elizabeth City Middle School more than four years ago. There, the county matched city and grant funding to reopen the school for use by the Police Athletic League and the Boys & Girls Club.

The last major park improvement outside the Elizabeth City limits was the handicapped-accessible playground that opened in 2016 at Fun Junktion. The new playground was entirely grant-funded.