James Newkirk had to be smiling down on the park named in his memory Saturday, as nearly 100 people gathered for the re-dedication of the outdoor space dedicated to community gatherings, childhood fun and family outings.
It’s exactly what Newkirk, a long-time community leader, deacon and all-around good guy, would have wanted for this neighborhood and for all those who will now have an opportunity to enjoy it.
The park has been benefactor of some sizable upgrades over the past year, a community effort by the park’s advisory committee, Sampson-Bladen Rho Omega Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc and the City of Clinton, which provided a beautiful new sign, a part of the city’s wayfinding initiative.
With the new sign now erected, a walking trail ready and being used and a year-long effort by the sorority to clean up the park, an effort that included the planting of flowers, painting of benches and cleaning of children’s playground equipment, Newkirk Park is a shining example of what can be done when people come together for a common cause.
That cause was celebrated Saturday as people of all races joined together to eat hamburgers, share memories and watch their children play on the playground, all while touting the work that has been done.
Much praise should be heaped on Newkirk Park Advisory Committee member Nettie Pernell whose tenacity has paid off three-fold in what is now the park area. In fact, the entire committee deserves much praise for its grit, the strength of which can be seen in the many renovations that have been made at the Ferrell Street park.
Pernell, who would shy away from the praise, deserves it anyway, both for her vision and for the drive she put behind that vision to get something accomplished at the park.
It was Pernell who often came to the newspaper office to talk about the needs at Newkirk, stressing the importance of our support in getting things accomplished over there; and it was Pernell who persistently urged people to become a part of the advisory committee that would eventually approach City Council about helping ensure the goals were achieved.
City leaders saw the need and joined hands with the committee, the results of which can now be seen by anyone who takes the time to stroll the walking trail or glance out at its expanse from the covered shelter area.
The park is inviting, beautiful and an anchor now for a neighborhood that has seen much deserved and positive changes coming its way.
Newkirk, who was touted as a humble, kind person, would have loved everything about both the dedication and the park itself, knowing that something good had sprouted from the efforts of men and women from all races and socio-economic backgrounds.
It once again goes to show what can be accomplished when people set aside their differences and work together for a common cause. In this case, the cause was the park. And great good was done because of it.