It Takes A Town To Grow A Park

by: Marlene email

Sunday evening my husband and I,  along with 2 grandsons,  attended the dedication of Central Park in Cape Charles, Virginia.  Untold hours of work by hundreds of “Citizens for Central Park” volunteers and thousands of dollars raised by them plus various State of Virginia grants the over the last ten years have “grown” the Park into what it is today– a lovely five acre green area ringed with winding walkways and beautiful landscaping. A flowing fountain greets visitors at the Park’s entrance and a large Gazebo proudly stands mid-way. On the north side you’ll find “Cape Kids”,  a large playground with substantial play structures for imaginative, safe play including a short climbing wall with the “rocks” inset over a mural of a mountain.  On the other side of the “Cape Kids” playground are two top notch tennis courts with night lighting.

The history of  “growing”  the Park is fascinating.  In the late 1880’s, when the town was being laid out,  the streets of Cape Charles were originally designed around the Park, although the Park itself was not developed.  When Cape Charles High School was opened in 1912,  the Park served as its athletic field with a football and baseball field. In 1993, the Cape Charles schools were consolidated with the Northampton County schools and the Park was closed. It wasn’t until year 2000 that a large group of residents came together to form “Citizens for Central Park” ,  kicking off the effort by hosting a “Design Your Own Park Day”  to draw in as much community energy as possible in creating the Park.  The Women’s Club of Cape Charles planned the “Cape Kids” playgound. The garden areas were planned by the Eastern Shore Garden Club. Leon Parham, a long time resident of Cape Charles and a creative local architect, pulled all these ideas and plans into the beautiful final design approved by Town Council and the various community groups. (Leon designed the Gazebo as well.)   The landscaping plan includes many interesting trees, including a Copper Beech, a Golden Rain tree, a Yoshino Cherry and a Gold Atlas Cedar,  most of which are memorial trees donated by individuals in honor of  or in memory of loved ones.  Funds for the brick pavers and the benches were also donated by dedication including the 2002 Commonwealth Award which was presented to the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore on behalf of the Central Park Memorial Garden by the Garden Club of Virginia.

And so the lovely Cape Charles Central Park,  the fruit of so much thought,  community effort and participation,  receipient of many grants (over a million dollars) was proudly dedicated on Sunday, September 5, 2010 .  Speeches were made, children were deputized, members of the Cape Charles Coast Guard Station presented the colors, the Star Spangled Banner was sung,  the Cape Charles Fire Department raised the flag and Mayor Dora Sullivan, a long and staunch supporter of the Park,  officially switched on the fountain. The waters gently flowed,  Cental Park was officially open !   Let the fun begin !

And so it did.  The first official Central Park concert was held in the Gazebo,  with four different groups playing throughout the evening– mostly country and rock and roll classics.  Along the winding pathways,  delicious aromas floated through the air as the food vendors offered tasty wares including crabcakes,  BBQ shrimp,  sub sandwiches,  goodies from the dessert tent  and,  of course,  the official food of  kids everywhere,  pizza. Being kids or at least kids at heart,  the four of us enjoyed some of Veneto’s pepperoni and Italian sausage pizza before heading over to the playground to get into the swing of things —  literally.  Out on the long, wide Green,  people were walking dogs,  tossing balls,  playing Frisbee,  chatting in groups,  sitting in beach chairs simply enjoying the music and the sunset —  just having a wonderful time, enjoying the spirit of their town and their new Park.   As we left,  Veneto’s Pizza,  its tent strung with twinking lights,  was still going strong,  the Gazebo’s  live band had given way to a brilliant laser light show accompanied by recorded disco music …. Come On, Baby, Let’s Do The Twist.   Strolling out past the murmering fountain,  my husband and I both agreed that Citizens for Central Park had selected a great motto —  “It Takes A Town To Grow A Park”.   The town of Cape Charles has grown a beautiful Park,  one which will enhance the lives of its residents and visitors for decades to come.   To all those who worked so so long and so hard to make  it happen, Bravo !


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