Tory Hole playground equipment installed; other renovations taking shape

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — Tory Hole’s transformation is coming along.

Cunningham Recreation has been busy installing playground equipment at the Elizabethtown park, an $82,421 project made possible by a N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant. Visitors to the park can now use updated slides, swings, climbing apparati, and poles for children to scale up and down, all on fresh mulch.

The old playground equipment was either put in storage to use elsewhere later or relocated to MLK Park.

Local theatrics got a boost as well, as the amphitheater on site underwent a major renovation. All new lumber and electric have given the feature a new look, and town staff are hoping the site will get used more than it has in the past.

“I’d love to see the amphitheater used for Friday night movie nights,” Elizabethtown Parks and Recreation Director Rod Fritz commented. “Families could come out to the park and have popcorn while watching a family-friendly movie, or I’d love to get in touch with local theater enthusiasts who might be interested in putting on plays. Concerts are another option out there.”

He added, “A lot of possibilities exist for the site, and we’re open to ideas for how to use it.”

A nine-hole disc golf course has also been installed, and the course’s first tournament was held Saturday as part of Elizabethtown’s inaugural Pork & Beats Festival. The tournament saw 33 people, some of them driving two hours just to compete in the tournament. Matt Greiner was one of those travellers.

“It’s a nice course,” he said, praising it as something beginners and families would enjoy. “You’ve also got the potential — like in regular golf courses — to add different tees, one for beginners and another for professionals. Putting another tee in a different location can completely change the hole, so in the end, it seems like an 18-hole course, even if another nine holes aren’t added.”

Fritz, however, hasn’t ruled out the possibility.

“I’d love to get another nine holes in that course,” he commented.

In the same way golf courses have a distinct name for each hole — like the Azalea (No. 13), Tea Olive (No. 1), Juniper (No. 6), and Nandina (No. 17) at Augusta National, for example — each hole at the Elizabethtown disc golf course will bear a distinct name. As the inaugural group, entrants in Saturday’s tournament were given naming privileges and submitted monikers like “Drop Zone” for a hole that declines steeply from the tee area.

Town staff will compile a list of the suggestions and make determinations about the best ones.

Bumper stoppers have been added to the parking, so it is more delineated, and the lot has been graded for proper drainage and new gravel laid. New trash cans and picnic tables give the park a fresh look.

All of the renovations were made possible by grants. The town received a $250,000 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, $125,000 from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and grant money totalling $100,000 from Duke Energy to put toward the face lift.

What remains up in the air, however, is what to do about the former river bank.

“When Matthew came through, it cut off the river bank in front of Tory Hole with a backwater river ditch,” explained Fritz, “so the river bank is essentially an island now.”

Because it falls under the pervue of FEMA, the Department of Environmental Quality, and the Department of Natural Resources, the town is unable to move soil back to its pre-Matthew location or to fill in the river with more soil to make a natural bridge to the new island. The only option is to obtain a permit allowing a bridge to be constructed over the new waterway.

“Matthew really changed the landscape of Tory Hole,” Fritz remarked.

Despite the challenges, the town has big plans for the former battlefield. Staff have until October 2018 to finish the plans, as required by grant agreements. Still in the works are renovations of the restrooms, walking trails with interpretive signage, and a scenic boardwalk through the cypress marsh.

“Tory Hole is really a wonderful asset for the town,” said Fritz. “We’re hoping this will be safer and more accessible so people can enjoy it.”

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing

Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal