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City officials dedicate King nature trail

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Elizabeth City officials cut a ribbon during a ceremony dedicating the new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Boardwalk for Children at Charles Creek Park, Monday.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Elizabeth City officials dedicated a new, downtown nature trail in his honor.

City councilors, Mayor Bettie Parker, and local kids cut the ribbon Monday for what the city has formally named the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Boardwalk for Children at Charles Creek Park. The boardwalk, a loop extending from Charles Creek Pavilion, runs over a marshy area and will offer educational alcoves about native plants and habitats.

Council approved the project in late 2017 and got permission from the King estate to name the park after the late civil rights leader, and feature his likeness on a plaque by the loop’s entrance.

Former city councilor Michael Brooks was the keynote speaker for Monday’s ceremony. Brooks strongly supported the project and pushed to get it built quickly.

Underscoring King’s love for youth, Brooks cited a humorous but also harrowing story King told. He recounted that, when King was at a book-signing in New York, a mentally-disturbed black woman stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener. The blade came so close to his aorta, King learned, that, had he sneezed, it could have punctured the major artery and killed him.

Letters wishing for his recovery poured in, including from the president and other major politicians, but King said later the only letter he remembered came from a high school student, who noted she was white.

“And I’m simply writing to say I’m so happy you didn’t sneeze,” the letter states in part.

Brooks continued that people may think of King in just “one dimension,” but he was also a highly educated theologian and scholar, and even a Nobel Peace Prize winner. King also encouraged young people to excel, including telling a group of high school students to put their best effort into whatever job they held, Brooks noted.

“And when you discover what you’ll do in life, do it as if God almighty called you to do it in this particular moment in history,” Brooks said, quoting King.

Parker also provided brief remarks at Monday’s event. She noted she wasn’t mayor when the project was approved, but praised councilors for supporting it.

The ceremony also included music from Weeksville Elementary School students, the Pledge of Allegiance led by River Road Middle School students, and an Elizabeth City Fire Department color guard.

Also attending the ceremony were Councilors Johnnie Walton and Darius Horton — who initially opposed the boardwalk over concerns about borrowing money for the project — Pasquotank County Commissioner Charles Jordan, and Elizabeth City State University Chancellor Karrie Dixon. Former city councilor Ray Donnelly also attended.

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