ELIZABETHTOWN — On a steamy Monday afternoon folks gathered behind the Elizabethtown Municipal Building to break ground on phase 1 of a set of improvements slated for the Leinwand Park.
The first phase of the improvements will be the construction of a skate park and soccer field on the grassy area located directly behind the municipal building. A crew was already at the site on Monday working to grade out the area for the park and soccer fields.
The improvements are part of a $215,000 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant the town was awarded earlier in the year.
“This is phase 1 with a skate park and the rejuvenation of the soccer field,” said Mayor Sylvia Campbell.
Campbell told those gathered that the town council is thankful for the work the town staff put into the application process.
Jen Beedle with Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management with N.C. State University, said that she is excited about the improvements for the park.
Beedle recounted her first visit to Bladen County in 2012. She said aside from being nervous, Beedle said that Madden welcomed her to the town and that she was impressed with what she saw.
Beedle said the application process for the PARTF grant is an extremely difficult and labor intensive one.
“I congratulate you,” said Beedle.
She recounted that since 1995, $175 million have been invested throughout North Carolina.
“This shows the town understands the benefits of recreation,” said Beedle.
She added that the PARTF grant process is very competitive and that the board was very impressed with the effort and thought the town put into its application.
“It demonstrates the commitment of the town to the health of the citizens by improving the quality of life of the town,” said Beedle.
In addition to the dignitaries present, Bladen County Soccer Association’s Jay Raynor was also present. He said the new soccer fields will be an asset to the town.
“It is a huge move forward,” said Raynor.
He said that the soccer association was revamped earlier and now with the soccer fields getting a makeover, that would mean a lot for the future of soccer in Bladen County. Raynor said that the county has and indoor soccer league that services about 65 to 70 children; a travel soccer team that serves 22 children and two other travel teams. Raynor said all totaled, about 100 children are impacted by the soccer program.
In addition, Raynor said that the soccer association offers activities for the students at Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy.
In addition to his duties with the Bladen County Soccer Association, Raynor also coaches men’s and women’s soccer at East Bladen High School.
Town Manager Eddie Madden said in a press release the length of the entire project is expected to be 36 months.
The second phase of the project, will include the development of horseshoe courts, shuffleboard courts, water feature and improvements to the playground at Leinwand Park.
—Erin Smith can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.