Published 2:34 pm Sunday, September 6, 2015
AHOSKIE – Miracles keep happening for the little park here they call the “Miracle on Main Street”.
Wednesday, the little half-acre that bills itself as the town’s first ‘big’ park, was presented a check representing a $225,000 grant from Trillium Health Resources to be used to construct an inclusive playground.
Ahoskie is one of 11 counties receiving playground grants from Trillium, an agency that manages mental health, substance use and intellectual/development disability services in a 24-country area in eastern NC. Funding for the Play Together grants is a result of savings from operating as a Medicaid 1915 Waiver Site.
“By managing Medicaid funding and services locally, Trillium has been able to achieve cost efficiencies in the past year,” said Amy Corbitt, project manager, Research and Development, Trillium. “We are so pleased to be able to take those savings and invest them back into the communities we serve.”
Reinvestment dollars were allocated to help communities across Trillium’s service area develop accessible playgrounds that allow young people of all abilities to come together.
“Within the scope of our services, we see how community and camaraderie help create productive, meaningful life,” continued Corbitt. “Our clients, both families and individuals, benefit from a connection to others. These playgrounds will do just that – encourage people of all abilities to come together without many of the hindrances they face in daily life.”
“Inclusive means it’s all directed at a recreational park complex where everything has to be handicap accessible,” said Town Manager Tony Hammond. “The Ahoskie Creek Park Complex currently does not have handicap-accessible facilities, but this one will. Everything will go here to Miracle on Main Street.”
“We’re trying to give back to the community in ways that will work with individuals of all ages and abilities to get them to come together and play in their own community,” concluded Corbitt.
The original idea for the ‘Miracle on Main Street’ park at 1001 W. Main was spearheaded some 16 years ago by Dawn Carter, who got a group of almost 300 local businesses and individuals involved. The park contained playground equipment and for years also housed the town’s Recreation Center.
The Center building, which will be cleared as part of the park’s renovation, had foosball and ping-pong tables, arts & crafts, a multi-purpose room, a kitchen, and office space. The Recreation Center has since relocated to the old National Guard Armory Building at 408 Peachtree Street.
“These projects would not have been possible if it had not been started by those folks,” said town Parks and Recreation department director Tina Pritchard.
Trillium will make grant award presentations to 10 other communities, including one upcoming in Bertie County. Another one was awarded last week in Gates County.
“I love the selection we’ve made here,” Corbitt continued. “We want a lot of these units in our area to receive re-makes.”
“Our goal was to include the new playground with the new unit we installed at the Recreation Center Park,” said Hammond. “We’re glad the committee decided to fund our grant. Once the building comes down that will open things up to expand this whole area.”
At Wednesday’s ceremonial check presentation were Ahoskie Town Council members Linda Blackburn and Elaine Myers.
“It makes everybody have access to everything,” said Myers. “I’m very happy about it, and happy they chose us.”
“We are very excited about this amazing opportunity to improve and expand the recreational facilities for all our users,” said Blackburn. “This unit will serve all of our wheelchair visitors and allow all users to have a better outdoors experience.”
A short walk from the parking lot, a lone swing, low to the ground with a high-back seat, sits as part of a play-set. With this grant, that swing will have some company.
“Other than that, there’s really nothing else out here that would accommodate wheelchair-bound children,” said Pritchard. “The Town Council has already voted on new bathroom facilities since it’s already the most-used park in town; and we’re looking forward to the beautiful, open park it will become to serve all our citizens.”
Pritchard says the timeline is for a design to be submitted by December; afterward the town will have 12 months within which to complete the work.
“If weather holds, we’re hoping we can have it completed in about six months,” Pritchard added. “By the time we order and get everything in it’ll take about that long.”
She estimates a presentation will be presented to the Town Council sometime in November.
“One of the things we’re looking at is that the special swings we will have to order come from Australia,” she said. “I’m excited because of all the stuff that’s going on.”
Not to be forgotten by history, Pritchard says a bronze plaque will be erected at the facility once work is completed to recognize the work of the park’s original visionaries.
“I don’t want it to get lost in all this,” she concluded, “that if it weren’t for them none of this would be here. We’re merely at the next phase of what they originally started.”