PEMBROKE — A cleanup of the grounds of the former N.C. Indian Cultural Center — once a prominent recreation area and educational center for the Lumbee people — will be held Saturday, and Lumbee officials are hoping plenty of folks from the community will participate.
“The cultural center is here for the community,” Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks said. “We are asking the community to come out and be a part of this project from the onset.”
Gary Strickland, the tribe’s public relations manager, said he expects between 150 and 200 volunteers to turn out for what is being promoted as a “Cultural Center Clean Up Day.” The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will include trash pickup, cutting grass, weed-eating and hauling away of refuse.
The tribe recently purchased the center property from the state for $351,000. There are four parcels, totaling more than 500 acres, located southwest of Pembroke between Pembroke and Maxton. The largest parcel, 387 acres, includes the now closed Riverside Golf Course; a swimming pool; picnic area; lake; and amphitheater where for years the outdoor drama “Strike at the Wind!” was performed.
The land became available when the state terminated the 99-year, $1-a-year lease it held with a private nonprofit that maintained and operated the site. The Lumbee Tribe was given the first chance to purchase the property, which it did about two months ago.
“This land holds a special meaning for our tribal members, especially our older generation. For years, it was a popular destination spot for family gatherings and recreational activities,” Brooks said. “We want our younger generation to share that same experience. Our youth should be educated about the significance of this property.”
The cleanup day, Strickland said, is the launch of a campaign to get the whole community behind tribal efforts to renovate the property. Strickland said that renovations, construction and other upgrades — that include the swimming pool, amphitheater and golf course — will cost about$ 6 million. He said that the property will not be reserved for the use of American Indians, but will be available for people of all races.
“We’re searching for funding sources to get the cultural center where it needs to go,” Strickland said. “We want this to be a place for this generation and generations to come to enjoy.”
Strickland said that no time frame has been set for completing the project, but that the tribe’s goal is to first make improvements that will allow for the lake and picnic areas to once again be open to the public.
“We would also like to have the pool open by next summer,” Strickland said. “The amphitheater and golf course will come later.”
Strickland said that one of the big improvements to the property will be the construction of a building that will serve as a multi-use facility.
“Our plans are to have some kind of a multi-use facility to house cultural activities,” he said.
According to a statement announcing the cleanup, volunteers should bring their own lawn care equipment, including mowers, weed-eaters and hedge trimmers. Large trash bags will be provided.
“This cleanup day is being organized as a safety-first event,” Brooks said in the statement. “We are asking that kids under 16 be accompanied by an adult.”
Brooks said the event is a good way to preserve Lumbee culture and history.
“We envision churches and other community organizations utilizing the cultural center for outings. This is also an ideal spot for family reunions or a weekend cookout,” he said. “The property will also be buzzing with boats, canoes, fishing, golfing and outdoor concerts.”