WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — This week the push from improvements to a Wilmington park is making progress.
When city staff first showed 2020 budget plans at a May city council meeting, no funds were set aside for water and electricity to return to Portia Hines Park. Since that announcement, neighbors both young and old have been able to pressure the city to find the funding.
“The park is like the heart for this side of town,” said Shakeirah Brown who has visited the parks for years taking part in community events.
Brown, along with several members of the Voyage Youth Leadership Council, has spent the past year launching a community campaign to bring running water and electricity to the park.
“For us to not have restrooms, lights or water is really unfair because a lot of parks have that except for Portia Hines Park,” said Saimeya Williams with the council. “And this park has been here for a longtime.”
The city tore down the original restrooms more than 25 years ago to deter crime. The park was added to the City’s park reservation system in 2014, based on the number of requests by the public to use the park as a site for special events. That’s according to information city manager Sterling Cheatam provided to city leaders in a proposed ordinance.
“The community is behind us because there’s no trouble here,” said Anthony Hardwrich who is a part of another community group, Northside Connection, lobbying for park improvements. “Maybe about 20 or 30 years ago maybe then, but today it’s [crime] nothing.”
Last year, the leadership council took a petition to Wilmington city leaders pushing for park updates.
“We had over one thousand signatures,” Williams said.
That’s because they council saw a problem with the park. Its use was growing from after school events to full-scale community events from ‘Dancin’ in the Park’ to before school shoe drives.
“This is where everybody comes together it will be family and friends all with get together,” Brown said.
At all of those events, Brown said mobile restrooms or water stations had to be used. Most kids who use the park rely on the kindness of neighbors to use restrooms or get a drink of water.
“I never thought our voices would be heard. That’s just big,” said Williams.
That work the council did gathering signatures, and the outpouring of support from neighbors and area businesses has led to the city finding funds to move along with improving the park.
City council will look at an ordinance Tuesday to send $67,100 leftover from the improvement to Empie Park over to design plans for Portia Hines Park.
“There are baby steps going on and we feel like we’re getting crumbs but we’re not going to stop until we have water lights and restrooms,” said Brenda Galloway who works as a community outreach advocate with the Blue Ribbon Commission on the northside.
The city says they’re awaiting FEMA reimbursement money before they move forward with any type of construction for the park.