Double Parking

The Eunice Shelton Thompson Park, also known as the Blair Community Park, is gone. With little fanfare and no eulogy, the park has returned to the state in which the County found it in 1985 – a green and vacant 2-acre lot on 99 Road in Blair. And while the County did dismantle all the equipment, pulling up the concrete walking trail and basketball court, they didn’t exactly salt the earth on their way out. Yet, though they reseeded the lot with new grass, they did, in fact, leave a hole in the community that one organization is now seeking to fill.

Sorting through the quagmire of the He Said/She Said/I’ve Never Heard of Her merry-go-round argument surrounding the closing of the park is an exercise in futility. What’s more, even if the fact could be culled from the fiction, it matters not. The park is gone and it is not coming back – at least not on the County’s nickel. But it appears as though that is not the aim of the Shelton Thompson Foundation, whose spokesperson and representative, Mr. Ernest Yarborough, spoke to Council Monday night. Not entirely.

Although Mr. Yarborough did, for a moment, stir through the ashes of that mini-controversy, at last he settled on the point: Don’t do anything until the Foundation has had an opportunity to offer up a plan to restore the park to the community.

It is a fine ideal. According to Mr. Yarborough, the Foundation wants to raise private money to rebuild the park; and not just a playground and picnic area, but a place for after-school programs as well. Then, once a significant amount of private money has been raised, the Foundation will request matching funds from the County. ‘Help us help ourselves,’ he said.

The Foundation should be commended for their Do-It-Yourself attitude, for their concern for their community and for their desire to make a positive change. Even if it does ultimately mean asking the County for some financial input, according to Mr. Yarborough it would only be in the neighborhood of 50 percent matching funds.

But they had better get moving.

As the Councilman from District 3 pointed out Monday night, talks are already under way with two other property owners in the Blair community, both of whom have shown a serious interest in dealing with the County, and on the County’s terms. Those terms, as was also pointed out Monday night by the County Administrator, entail long-term leases at nominal rates, or outright purchases for the taxable or fair market value. If the Foundation expects the County’s help at all, they too will have to deal with those terms. And their proposal will likely have to outshine any offer made by either of the two newly interested property owners.

Nevertheless, it is worth a try, and it is refreshing to see people who care enough about their community to get involved.

It is important, Mr. Yarborough told us, that the community living in the shadow of the nuclear power plant should have appropriate recreational facilities. Maybe so. But maybe building those facilities deep within the underground labyrinth of a fallout shelter would be even more appropriate.

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