April 3, 2014
The development of Lumberton’s Northeast Park has at times been as agonizingly slow as a scoreless, extra-inning baseball game.
It was almost a full decade ago, on Nov. 8, 2005, that 63 percent of Lumberton voters rejected the sale of $6 million in bonds as a way to pay for the park in one big bang, sending city officials, who remained determined, back to the drawing board.
The park was seen as a local amenity, a plum in a city and county that needed one, but also as a venue capable of attracting regional, state and perhaps even national youth baseball tournaments that would draw parents and their children who would spend money and give a boost to the local economy. With that in mind, the City Council eventually decided to build the 90-acre park in phases and to pay for it as best they could, with a eye specifically on grants.
Nine years later, there are soccer fields, a walking trail and a playground that are being used by the public at the park. But the centerpiece of the facility, five baseball fields that will be in a pinwheel design with a scoring tower in the middle, is still under construction on the 45-acre part of the park that is being developed first. It has been frustrating for parents and their little leaguers, some of whom will age out before getting a chance to take a swing at Northeast Park.
Last year the city was convinced that the baseball fields at Northeast Park would be in play during 2013, but that didn’t happen. A similar promise for this year has now also been broken.
There was a problem previously with a contractor and some fencing, and this year Mother Nature has been especially cruel with rain, sleet and snow, putting a halt to work more than once.
Meanwhile in Pembroke, a similar if slightly less ambitious recreation park that was begun after Northeast Park is already in play, and putting smiles on the faces of a lot of young people.
The Northeast project is no longer stuck in park, but the wheels are obviously slowly moving. That was assured in 2005 when city residents lined up against the project, convinced that it would be a burden on them as taxpayers. But there have been plenty of missteps as well.
Eventually, the ribbon will be cut on Northeast Park and we will all know whether it has been worth what by that time will have been a very long wait. We believe it will be.