James L. Newkirk Memorial Park has received sizable upgrades over the past year, a community effort by the park’s advisory committee and a sorority that has culminated with a new sign courtesy of the City of Clinton’s wayfinding initiative.
The revamped park will be the site of a rededication celebration on Saturday, April 30. The Newkirk Park Advisory Committee and Sampson-Bladen Rho Omega Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., along with Clinton Parks and Recreation and other city officials, will mark the rededication of the park on Ferrell Street. The event will start at noon.
“Our sign is beautiful and I thank you all so much for being tolerant with me,” said Newkirk Park Advisory group member Nettie Pernell said to City Council and city staff recently. “We are now getting ready to do our dedication. We are really planning for a great time and we’re inviting everybody out. This is a very momentous occasion and we plan to celebrate and we want everybody to be a part.”
Last spring, members of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Rho Omega Omega chapter made improvements to Newkirk Park as part of the organization’s 1908 Playground Impact Day outreach. As part of the effort, sorority members with assistance from members of the Clinton Parks and Recreation and Newkirk Park Advisory Committee planted flowers, painted benches and cleaned children’s playground equipment.
That effort culminated with an event where prizes donated by local businesses were distributed, food and other treats were provided, face painting offered and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament held. There were performances, a raffle and a DJ. Pernell is looking forward to similar activities on Saturday.
The 1908 project’s aim was to restore, refresh and renew parks throughout the world, targeting the mobilization of 1,908 playgrounds with the goal of ensuring children have a safe and inviting places to play. Through its Acts of Green Program, the sorority members promote environmental sustainability by encouraging recycling, litter prevention and waste management.
“I’m truly honored to be a part of this movement,” organizer Nicole Edwards said at the time about the partnership with the city’s Park and Recreation Department and the park’s community committee. Last year was the first year of a four-year endeavor to improve Newkirk.
“We’ll have activities throughout the four years and we’ll be doing different projects,” she noted them.
Newkirk Advisory members, including Pernell, has been outspoken in recent years about the need for upgrades at the park. The revitalization began in earnest with the installation of a walking trail. Members of the community talked about the need to breathe life into the park again, so that children in the area could have a quality place to play. They also shared that view with the sorority members.
“When I spoke with most of them, they said it was a park that used to be very lively,” Edwards pointed out. “Then it just took a downturn. Now they’re wanting to get the same positive vibes back again and have more children out there.”
Further down Ferrell Street, the city is also expanding its Downtown Recycle Art Walk (DRAW). With sections along the street already adorned with the art of young students, the committee has contacted art teachers in local schools to provide additional artwork for the project, similar to what has been done in previous years in partnership with the Clinton Public Works Department and the Sampson Arts Council. More has already been installed as the effort grows.
As part of the city’s wayfinding initiative, it will also be replacing facility signs with brand new ones. The first sign replaced was the one at Newkirk Park, for which Pernell and others beamed with pride.
Pernell said Ferrell Street is turning into a beautiful sight. Clinton Mayor Lew Starling praised members of the park’s advisory group and others who have made that happen.
“Your good work does not go unnoticed,” he said.
For more information on Saturday’s event, call Nettie Pernell at 910-592-6508 or Mary Bennett at 910-260-0011.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.