PEMBROKE — The site of the old Riverside Golf Course, which is now part of the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Center, could become a major attraction for high school and college cross country runners, according to tribal officials and officials from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
The tribe and the university recently penned an agreement that allows UNCP’s cross country team to practice and eventually sponsor meets at the site on which 25-foot-wide sections have been cut down around the perimeter of the property to create a two-mile track.
Eventually there will be another 1.5 miles of track cut across the property where golf carts once traveled, according to Peter Ormsby, head coach of men’s and women’s cross country and track teams at UNCP.
Ormsby said that during this cross country season, which begins this month and runs through December, his team of 25 runners will use the cultural center trail just for practice. Eventually, however, the site will be perfect for major college and high school cross country events, he said.
According to Harvey Godwin Jr., chairman of the Lumbee Tribe, the area that will be used by cross country runners will also be open to Lumbee tribal members and others for walking and exercise. Maintenance of the area will be provided by UNCP.
“It will be like a nature walk back there,” Godwin said. “… I look forward to seeing UNCP’s cross country team conducting their practice at the cultural center. I want people to know that the revitalization of the cultural center is a community effort and we can build upon this process by establishing a connection for our youth through student athletic activities.”
The cultural center is located on Terry Sanford Road, between Pembroke and Maxton. It was once a prominent recreation and educational center for the Lumbee people. The tribe purchased the property, four parcels totaling more than 500 acres, from the state in 2014 for $351,000. The largest parcel of 387 acres includes the former Riverside Golf Course.
Joshua Malcolm, a UNCP graduate and the university’s general counsel, said the agreement between the Lumbee Tribe and the university is an example of the university and tribe working as partners in a project that will benefit both entities.
‘That from the beginning has been the goal of our chancellor, Robin Cummings,” Malcolm said. “He wants us to form partnerships and work with our community partners whenever possible.”
Malcolm said he sees the partnership between the tribe and university as a “win-win situation” for both entities.
“This has the potential to perhaps become not only the best cross country course in the conference, but in the region,” Malcolm said. “It could also eventually be an economic boost for the region by bringing in folks that would eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels, and use our other available services.”
Riverside Golf Course used to be a popular place for golfers, especially American Indians who were denied access to other golf courses in the region and county.