Save Center City Park

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Save Center City Park

After ten years, Center City Park is being considered for development! We are shocked that this would even be considered when we have so many other options for infill, there are dilapidated vacant buildings, and a wider scope of urban growth boundaries. While our City Council says they have no plans in from the developers, we want to get in front of this. We believe a critical error in judgement has been made to lead us to this point. We need and are asking desperately for your help to sign this petition as soon as possible and share this with as many people as possible for more signatures. We want to make vehemently clear to City Council, Downtown Development, and Developers who might think this is just available land for sale, that we plan to fight this and demonstrate why we believe our park is central to our community and needs to be preserved. 

We also want to make clear to those who are not educated on the history of this land that this green space has been a part of multiple group dynamics in a way that a vacant space is not. Eliminating this space after functioning and growing as a park over the course of ten years, erodes a fundamental sense of community group dynamics. This, in turn, can lead to the erosion of the democracy it would take to implement momentum for other west side development such as the proposed F.U.S.E project. We see this as terrible PR, bad team building, and a waste of resource gathering in a time when we need to keep our eye on the ball (pun intended)!

Our statement to the City of Gastonia who owns this property is as follows: We believe the so named “Center City Park” demonstrates the essence of our motto to our City of Gastonia; Great Place, Great People, Great Promise.

As a “great place” it has become an iconic landmark in downtown. Professional and amateur photographers will tell you that the walls adorning this park are the most photographed in all of Gastonia. The Convention Center has hosted many proms, graduations and weddings that routinely bring them steps away leading to the park for group and individual photography on a regular basis. In addition, there are two other wedding venues, along with a photo studio, that are downtown who routinely use this iconic backdrop in downtown and rely on it for business. The five ten-foot by ten-foot panels on the side of the Merit Building in the park act as an outdoor gallery that create the jewelry to an already enticing brick, plaster and mortar patina. This gallery project was individually funded by well-known pillars of the community and supported through Gaston Together. It has been installed specifically to the challenges of a multi-faceted wall and engineered to be permanent to the Side of the Merit Building. The intention of this innovation was to give the community a unique structure that would lower to the ground for attaching artwork, sculpture, backdrops or movie screen and then raise these items to a desired height for events hosted either in the park or happening downtown. At this point in time, the Outdoor Gallery has acted as a yearly reoccurring event for local high school students with an award ceremony and jazz band as well as giving a group mural activity to local Webb Street School. Many parents, teachers and students from the community at large have the opportunity to see their artwork enlarged to the size of a billboard in order to honor their artistic achievements. Recently, the gallery has been renovated with help from the City by installing ground lights to ensure night time exposure of the artwork and act as a future beacon to the iconic “core” of our downtown. 

“Great people” have worked hard to put their stamp of effort, time and talent into this park and continued to do so over the course of ten years. Artist Harry McDaniel, nationally known for his kinetic sculptures, constructed and installed the “tree spirit” sculpture through the efforts of Keep Gastonia Beautiful. The sculpture has three pivot points that move and interact with the wind. It represents green space and our honorary award of “Tree City” 17 years running. This park has over 30 trees in it alone. The park also adorns a small cooperative library installed by an Eagle Scout from Ashbrook High School with a flag stone path leading to it. Parks and Recreation efforts are immeasurable over the course of ten years including maintenance, planting, installing sidewalks, pet disposal stations, sidewalk lighting that connects to the parking deck, seating, and an underground irrigation system for continual watering on a routine basis. 

Lastly, our Center City Park shows and demonstrates “great promise” of what the future holds when small individual efforts culminate towards a greater “good” with unselfish intentions. These continual efforts over the course of ten years created a momentum of interested and invested individuals that have in many ways done their part to renovate downtown Gastonia. If we allow this park to continue on for decades to come, this park will bear more fruit with a new wave of millennials and Gen-Z willing to contribute. At the very beginning stages of putting this park together for what was then temporary use, construction began to dig up and excavate large oversized stones. It was determined that these stones were at some point the foundation stones to the buildings that were torn down. A decision was made to keep them and have them placed throughout the park for people of all ages to sit on. This is the epitome of the foundation of old giving way to the new through repurpose. It is this repurpose that has to be remembered, honored and taught as an example of how to build a community whereby people of past, people of present and people of future are all part of building a community.

To our Downtown Development team: This park is an example of development as a “process” of storytelling with a culmination of people from a variety of efforts and perspectives. We will need this example moving forward with future efforts such as the FUSE project to demonstrate unity of seemingly disparate parts uniting as one. This effort and philosophy are more powerful than any sum of money from one developer and one project. Unity and storytelling are the key to uniting past, present and future of Gastonia as well as making sure we have strong relational ties throughout our community. We respectfully ask that “development” be thought of as “our story” equally as much as it is thought of as “economics”. In this way, please put forth your efforts towards our old buildings and vacant lots first and foremost with the intention of adapt, adopt and reuse. This is the treasure trove we have in abundance in our downtown and we must learn how to teach it, implement it and try harder to be innovative when it isn’t as easy as building new. In this way, we have the ability to kill two birds with one stone; adopt the past and create a unique future story. These efforts will leap frog us into the future by having created a highly unique special atmosphere in the core and hub of our City that tells our perpetual progress story along the way for someone to add a chapter, tell the prologue or organize the next index to follow.