Off To A Great Start

Just the mention of a new park will even make adults giddy with excitement. When the playground equipment is free—the reaction is even better.

Mulberry Park—a 10-acre plot in Shallotte, N.C.—was all set to move forward on creating a gathering space for the community complete with two event lawns, a venue to host concerts and movies, and community gardens. Plans were clicking along when Rachel Johnson, the town’s Parks and Recreation and Business Promotional Coordinator, entered and won the first Great Play Giveaway contest in 2015 sponsored by Parks & Rec Business and Camp Business magazines. As the winner, the town received a brand new Intensity playground from BCI Burke valued at almost $15,000. Construction was complete in May 2016.

So far, the reaction has been nothing but short of spectacular.

“It’s been in almost constant use since we opened it,” says the town’s Mayor Walter Eccard. “People seem to really enjoy it.”

Whether it’s a local daycare or nursery school bringing kids for a “field trip” or grandparents looking to entertain their grandchildren, Eccard says people are ecstatic to have their ‘first real park in town.”

He credits several items as keys to success and offers the following advice for anyone looking to tackle a new park:

1.       Involve citizens in the decision-making process

2.       Try to have a long-term plan on how the park will be used

3.       Consider parking needs.

Eccard points out Mulberry Park was designed as a place for family events, so they are still coming up with ways to attract their intended audience. So far, the park hosts a farmer’s market every Saturday as well as a Tomato Fest which brought in more than 1,200 people. He added they intended to have a Fall Festival, but said it was cancelled when Hurricane Matthew blew through town.

As far as future events, Eccard says the town is hoping to play off of local themes and to create an afternoon-a-week event that will attract people who are vacationing at nearby beaches, such as Holden Beach. 

“We’re still experimenting, but I think we’re off to a great start,” Eccard says.