GARLAND — While gripping the chains of a swing, Carson Rich smiled as his dad gave him a push. With each swing, the 3-year-old boy became happier. A lot of children such as Carson are excited about the new Curtis D. Cain Memorial Park.
“Our community is growing and we have more kids than we ever had,” parent Anthony Rich said during Thursday’s grand opening of the town’s park. “To have something for them is a special thing.”
The father and son joined other community members for a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony for the park. It was a vision of town leaders that began a few years ago. During her opening remarks, children stood in front of the equipment as Mayor Winifred Murphy honored them.
“We all love our children in our sweet little town,” Murphy said. “Today is for you to have fun and grow.
“When you get older like me, you’ll understand why today is for you and you can give back to many children too.”
Connie Cain Rackley donated the 1.39 acres of land for the project, which is being named after Cain — a former commissioner and business entrepreneur. Along with members of the Cain and Rackley families, several leaders from Sampson County and Garland were present for the celebration.Dee Bryant, president of the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce, said it was a beautiful asset for the town. She quoted Oprah Winfrey’s words about leaving a legacy to touch or help people.
“To the Cain family, every child who plays in this park is your legacy,” Bryant attested.
E.L. Rackley, husband of Connie, made remarks on behalf of the family. While honoring his father-in-law, Rackley said it was a very exciting time for Garland.
“It’s a step towards the future, especially for the youth of Garland,” Rackley asserted.
Rackley said it’s a time for the children to create memories they can pass on to future generations of youngsters. While thanking the town leaders for their work, he also spent time honoring Cain.
“Mr. Cain, himself, would be very proud of Garland today,” Rackley said about the commissioner who spent his life in Garland. “He would be truly humbled to have this park named in his honor. He always loved Garland and wanted the best for his hometown.”
During the ceremony, 8-year-old Bella Hoffman, great-granddaughter of Curtis D. Cain, held large scissors and snipped the ribbon. It marked a new era for Garland.
Murphy and Commissioner Judy Smith made remarks about future developments and asked community members to get involved by making suggestions to improve the vision.
“As you can see this park is not complete,” Murphy pointed out. “There’s many more things that we need for our children here.”
The town recently approved the construction of an asphalt basketball court, which is a long-range plan. Murphy reported that money was donated for the goals.
“We got a start, we need a finish,” Smith said. “We really need people to dig deep and help us finish that project.”
Like Murphy, Smith believes the park project was a result of a community effort. She acknowledged her colleagues on the board and many others who played a part in the phases. The first phase involved infrastructure work such as installing a sprinkler system and lights.
For phase two, playground equipment from Head Start was refurbished and installed. A swing set was also donated by Smith and her husband, Eddie Smith. Other works included mulch for fall protection, border around the playground equipment and grass maintenance.
During the 2017-18 fiscal year, town officials would like to put up a permanent brick marker in honor of Cain. Another goal is to develop land behind the post office for picnic tables, grills, and trash cans. Smith and others would also like to install benches and trash cans on the boundary of the park. The last phase of the project is to install and asphalt walking track around the park.
Although plans are set for the park, Smith said the town is open to the idea of adding additional playground equipment for children. One way to accomplish that is through the “Friends of the Park” donation pot approved by commissioners.
Smith also stressed the importance of maintaining the park. To start, it was noted that Commissioner S.J. Smith brought trash cans to help. Like many others, he also assisted with maintenance.
“All of these people in their own way worked very hard for this to happen,” Smith said while recognizing S.J. and other volunteers.
The ceremony began with children listening to remarks, but one-by-one they made their way to the playground equipment, an inflatable bounce house and an ice cream stand. Many of the adults present didn’t mind their eagerness.
“We look forward to the future development of this park for the children of today and for future generations,” Murphy said.
(Chase Jordan | Sampson Independent)