Newland residents will be asked to vote for a second time next week on naming the county’s northern park, a move Commissioner Sean Lavin said has many residents upset.
The northern park has been unofficially tabbed the “Newland Park” ever since more 70 residents overwhelming voiced support for that name at a meeting with county officials last February.
But commissioners agreed earlier this month to seek a second meeting with Newland residents after Commissioner Cecil Perry proposed naming the park for retired U.S. Army Major General Hawthorne “Peet” Proctor, a Newland native. Proctor was the first African American and first North Carolinian to serve as the Army Quartermaster General.
Perry’s request could include having “Newland” also included in the park’s name.
The meeting in Newland will be on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church located at 836 U.S. Highway 158 West.
“The purpose of the meeting is to update citizens on the Northern-Newland Park effort and to get their final input on the naming of the new park,” Assistant County Manager John Shannon said. “Everyone is welcome to attend. The church does require masks to be worn inside their buildings.”
Lavin voiced opposition to Perry’s proposal earlier this month, saying that naming the park after Proctor came out of “left field.” He said Newland residents voiced support for naming the park “Newland Park” and nothing should change unless those residents indicate otherwise.
“There have been a lot of people that are pretty fired up about this development and I am expecting them to turn out,” Lavin said. “I’ve had citizens ask me ‘why are they hijacking our park?’ At the end of day, I am against the change because the residents have already given us direction. If the residents want to change direction they are welcome to do it. Calling it Newland Park means it is a park for all.”
Lavin said he doesn’t even know if Proctor was even consulted before Perry proposed naming the park for him.
“I feel like if he (Proctor) knew the emotions that are being invoked by this development on renaming the park, I think even he wouldn’t want it,” Lavin said. “I think it was ill-thought out by people who are out of touch with this whole effort.”
Consideration of naming the park for Proctor may be a moot point, however.
The Board of Commissioners’ Finance Committee voted 5-0 Monday to recommend approval of a new county-facilities naming policy. The proposed policy states a person must be deceased at least six months before a county facility can be named after that person. Proctor is not deceased.
Perry did not attend Monday’s meeting and the full Board of Commissioners must approve the measure at its Dec. 5 meeting.
Lavin supports the naming policy as written, saying it incorporates the best practices of other governmental entities that adopted similar measures. He noted the state’s Highway Historical Marker program requires a person to be deceased at least 25 years before being eligible to be honored with a marker.
The Newland Park will be at the site of the former Morgan’s Corner Pulling Park off U.S. Highway 158, which the county purchased for $614,000 in January. The Newland property is 51 acres but 3.2 acres is being set aside for a future northern public safety substation for EMS and the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office.
The county has received a total of $964,000 in grant funding for the park, including $789,000 in state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grants. It plans to seek more grant money to reduce the amount of county funds needed to construct Phase I of the park.
Pasquotank’s Newland Park Master Plan estimates the cost of Phase 1 to be around $2.1 million, not including the land purchase. The first phase includes the needed infrastructure and the construction of a playground, walking paths, pavilion, picnic shelter, restrooms and a basketball court.
That figure includes a contingency fund of almost $160,000 and almost $133,000 set aside for inflation. The largest single expenses are almost $338,000 for park trails and $285,000 for park structures. Other park furnishings and amenities are expected to cost almost $157,000.