Brooklyn Avenue gets new community park

“Years ago, the Brooklyn Avenue-area was a place full of families and children. In recent years it’s changed, and hopefully this park will help to reverse that and give the kids here something to do,” said County Adminstrator Steve Willis at the dedication of Stafford Belk Park on Friday, June 21, in the historic Brooklyn Avenue neighborhood.

Willis said the new park is just one part of the county’s plans to revitalize the area.

The family of the late Stafford Belk, a local businessman and World War II veteran, donated the land, located next to the old Cameron’s Barbershop, to Lancaster County Parks and Recreation.

“My father always loved children, and loved watching them play,” said Belk’s daughter, Tamra Belk. “The park is a good idea to help the kids and families of the area, and we hope it really does help to revitalize the neighborhood.”

Stafford Belk died May 15, 2011, but was able to approve the donation of the land for the project before his death.

“We’re impressed that they named the whole park after him,” Tamra Belk said. “This is something good that goes on beyond his death, and lets us all remember him.”

Tamra Belk attended the dedication with her daughter, Monica Patterson, Stafford Belk’s granddaughter, Paige Gainey, and great-grandson, Wyatt Good.

“The family’s been in the area for a long time,” Patterson said. “(My grandfather) was always really involved, and would appreciate what this park is doing.”

The final plans for the park came together in December 2012, and was funded through a grant by Catawba Regional Council of Governments. Construction was completed in April.

LCPR Director Hal Hiott said there are still a few additions, such as grass and landscaping, to be completed in the fall.

“We’ve gotten a lot of response from the community and residents in the area,” said Hiott said.

“They told me they’ve noticed less people hanging around, and with children playing, it’s cleaned up the area. The times I’ve come by there’s always been at least two to three children in the park playing. It’s a really positive thing.”

The dedication was attended by the Belk family, Hiott, LCPR Assistant Director Katherine Small, Willis, County Recreation Commission member Lester Belk and Lancaster County Councilman Bob Bundy. Children from the LCPR summer day camp were invited to play in the park as part of the official opening.

The county hopes the park will benefit both the children and families in the area and the Grace Place afterschool center operated next door by Grace United Methodist Church.

“I’m really proud of this park. Hopefully it will give the community a good shot in the arm and improve it,” Lester Belk said.

Bundy said he is also hopeful for the changes the park will bring.

“It’s an exciting thing not only for this neighborhood, but for the entire county. Kids are just magnetically drawn to it, and I can’t wait to see it move forward,” Bundy said.

By Laura Caskey, staff reporter with The Lancaster News