After some three years of work with a half-million-dollar Community Safety Initiative Grant to the City of Laurens from then Governor Mark Sanford, one of the benefits of that grant was the scene of a celebration yesterday.LaurensCityParksand Recreation Director Jason Pridgon conducted a ribbon cutting yesterday at the reconstructed River Street Park.
Mayor Sharon Brownlee pointed out many of the new features, from land grading to a retaining wall, from a new paved parking lot to a paved basketball court; plus a kids play area, a picnic shelter and new rest rooms. She thanked many different people and entities that helped with the project, including help from near by Sanders Middle School that was important for the park project and a Laurens High School construction team that made new picnic tables.
Mayor Brownlee noted that the River Street Park renovation was just part of the results of the state grant:
“There’s been a lot going on. We’ve been demolishing some of the dilapidated properties in the neighborhood and well as re-habbing some of the homes here in the neighborhood. I think you will be able to ride around and see a huge difference in the neighborhood. And with that I have to thank our City Council because they came forth with the money for use to be able to come in here and really rehab this park.”
Representatives from the Upper Savannah Council of Governments and the State Department of Commerce were on hand for yesterday’s celebration on River Street. Pam Davenport of Upper Savannah Council of Governments told WLBG that the overall Jersey Neighborhood project is now in the process of taking down 23 dilapidated homes in the neighborhood and renovating another 13 homes with the Community Safety Initiative Grant.
Mayor Sharon Brownlee thanked City Councilwoman Marion “Blonde” Miller for being a liaison between the City Council and the Community regarding the Jersey Street Project. Ms. Miller talked of organizing the community to ensure the park is maintained in good condition:
“We are going to try to keep the park just like it is now, with effort from the community. So we do plan to have community meetings, to get a group of people to monitor this park, to try to keep the upkeep of it just as it is now.”
Mayor Brownlee noted the importance of the partnership of near by Sanders Middle School in the project. Sanders Principal George Ward pledged that the school will partner with the city, including using it for some outside classes:
“We definitely would like to utilize the park as much as possible and also partner with the city with some of our clubs, our honor society and student council, partnering and adopt the park to make sure we come down here regularly and clean up.”
Laurens Police Chief Robin Morse yesterday said that even though the overall work is not yet complete in the Jersey neighborhood, he is already seeing positive results:
“You’ve got to remember this has been ongoing this year, so I look to see some better things even next year. But we’re already showing about a 17% reduction in our call volume from this area over here just getting this thing started, getting it off the ground. So I really expect it go to down even more next year.”
When the City of Laurens was busy with upgrading City Park and the Little River Park a few years back, Angel Summers came to council and asked the city to also renovate the River Street Park; but there wasn’t any money left for a third park renovation at the time. At yesterday’s ribbon-cutting event, she said:
“When I first brought it before, to the city council, they didn’t have the money. And they did say that they will work on the park as soon as they did get some grant money, or whatever; and as ya’ll can see, it’s nice, it’s state-of-the-art.”
Jason Pridgon noted that there will be sporting events programmed at the River Street Park in warm weather. It will operate year-round as a community park, with a Child’s play area, picnic shelter, basketball court and public rest rooms.