Blue Jay Park gains Reynolds grant

Published 11:08 am Monday, May 29, 2017

WINDSOR – The Blue Jay Recreation Park in the Indian Woods community has been awarded a $150,000 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust for construction of a paved walking trail and other facility improvements.

The Bertie County Board of Commissioners announced the award at its May 15 meeting which was held at the Blue Jay Volunteer Fire Department.

The grant will make possible several notable upgrades, and include the addition of a paved walking trail, covered picnic shelter, and other improvements expected for the Indian Woods Community located near NC Highway 11 in western Bertie County.

At its May meeting, Bertie Commissioners’ Vice Chairman Ernestine Byrd Bazemore and Commissioner Ron Wesson provided the project coordination with the Blue Jay Recreation Committee, which was accelerated last year thanks to the approval of the county’s 30-year lease of the park property and the commitment to provide facility improvements.

Established in 1947, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is named for the late Kate G. Bitting Reynolds (1867-1946). Reynolds was married to William Neal Reynolds, Chairman of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The trust was created in 1947 under Mrs. Reynolds’s will to improve the quality of life and quality of health for the financially needy of North Carolina. The trust accomplishes its work through its two divisions, the Health Care Division and the Poor and Needy Division.

“Its Health Care Division promotes wellness programs and found the Blue Jay Recreation Park’s establishment of a community walking trail to be a very worthy investment,” said Adam Linker, Program Officer for the Trust.

Anthony Smallwood, a lifelong Blue Jay community resident, whose father Bart F. Smallwood founded the Blue Jay Recreation Center in the 1960s, was in attendance at the Commissioners meeting, and shared his reflections on what this Reynolds grant will mean.

“This is truly a blessing for Blue Jay and all of the people who helped to make this happen,” Smallwood acknowledged. “Bertie County’s mission is to improve the health, safety and quality of life for all of its citizens.”

Bart Smallwood established the Blue Jay Recreation Committee in the late 1960’s because the community activist believed the small Bertie community had a serious need for some type of community recreation center for children between the ages of 5 and 18. It had an overall goal of providing wholesome quality recreation for both youth and adults.

By 1967, Smallwood had solicited the support of area churches and interested residents. Local pastors encouraged their congregations to donate time and money for development of the center. Activities provided included baseball and basketball games with other communities within Bertie County.

One of Smallwood’s conditions is that players were required to make a pledge: “I trust in God, I love my country and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win; but win or lose, I will always do my best.”

Much of this history was detailed in one of the books by Smallwood’s son, Dr. Arwin D. Smallwood, in his “Making of America” series, titled, “Bertie County: An Eastern Carolina History”. Dr. Smallwood is currently the chairman of the History Department at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.

For fiscal year 2016-17, the Bertie Commissioners committed to making the Blue Jay Recreation Park a key priority and approved initial funding in the county budget of $83,450 to address parking and street access, demolition of an existing unsafe structure and preliminary work for a restroom and concession facility. Site work is now complete, and there is $60,000 of this initial appropriation remaining, and other local funds of $14,050 available for construction of the proposed restroom and concession building at the park, which will include a covered picnic shelter. This is according to conceptual drawings prepared by Anthony Rascoe, Superintendent of Maintenance, Grounds, and Public Buildings for Bertie County.

The Reynolds grant will support construction of a paved walking trail, measured six-foot-wide and will traverse the perimeter of the five-acre park, estimated to cost $100,000 with use of local contractors. The walking trail is proposed as a 2,062-foot paved surface for children, families and senior citizens to enjoy throughout the year, providing a safe and healthy form of exercise. There are two stream beds (ditches) which will require construction of small bridge platforms to insure safe crossing, and with any remaining funds light poles and overhead lights will be erected, and park benches will be installed approximately every 75 yards.

According to grant documents, it’s anticipated that the lighting portion of this project will be a partnership with Roanoke Electric Cooperative, the utility which serves this area.