A sentimental favorite among parents and children past and present, Kidsville playground is no more. At least for now.
Last week, the city announcement was posted on its Facebook page: “Kidsville, located at Seth West Parrott Park, was torn down today. This unique playground served the community well for 24 years. In April of 2018, the structure was closed due to extensive maintenance issues and safety concerns. All sponsor signage and name pickets were removed prior to demolition.
“We are now preparing for the construction of Kidsville 2.0. Construction is scheduled to begin later this spring. Stay tuned for information on how you can be a part of the new playground, which will have a similar look and feel to the original.”
Kidsville playground was 24 years old, four years older than its intended life expectancy, according to city documents provided in response to a New Bern Post Freedom of Information Act request.
According to a report from Playgrounds by Leathers, “The original materials used in the playground were pressure treated wood posts and framing. The original wood was treated with CCA. It is apparent from its condition that this playground is a well-used attraction in the area. There is a strong emotional connection with the community and the playground.”
According to audits by Leathers in 2018 and a risk assessment of the playground conducted in 2015, the condition of the park had degraded to the point where some safety hazards were severe.
I can attest. I hit my head hard several years ago climbing on the structure while playing with my son. It nearly knocked me out. I was lucky. In April 2018, a man lost his finger when his ring was caught in an opening and he lost his balance. The city closed the park three days after learning of that incident.
Leathers said, “Due the structures age and condition, we have provided an estimated cost to replace the playground with a new design utilizing all of today’s latest materials (no wood). Today’s playgrounds are expected to last minimally 30 years with minimal maintenance needs. A custom designed community built replacement estimate is around $250,000-275,000 for a playground with similar square footage as your existing playground. This includes engineered wood fiber as the ground cover. If poured in place rubber is wanted in the tot lot as currently designed, this cost will be determined upon final design. This cost estimate is based on utilizing our community built model. It’s anticipated that the work can be completed in five (5) days. While a renovation is an option, consideration should be given to the total amount budgeted vs. the expected longevity of each option. Also, yearly maintenance cost and needs for upkeep must be kept in mind.”
The replacement estimate did not include demolition.
The cost to renovate the park was put at $200,000. The cost to build anew with modern materials and safety features, plus an expected 30-year lifespan, is $250,000, City Parks and Recreation Director Foster Hughes said in an early report to the Board of Aldermen.
A social media survey conducted by the city resulted in 2,700 votes, 86 percent of which preferred something similar to Kidsville as a replacement, rather than more conventional playground designs found elsewhere in the city and county.
UPDATE: Meeting cancelled due to approaching hurricane.
Editor’s note: Changes to how City Hall posts its agenda with background information has made it difficult to translate it into a single webpage. Below is the basic agenda, with New Bern Post editor notes in bold. To see the entire packet, go here.
CITY OF NEW BERN BOARD OF ALDERMEN MEETING
SEPTEMBER 11, 2018- 6:00 P.M.
CITY HALL COURTROOM 300 POLLOCK STREET
Meeting opened by Mayor Dana E. Outlaw. Prayer Coordinated by Alderwoman Harris. Presenting and Retirement of Colors by New Bern Fire and Police Departments. Pledge of Allegiance.
Request and Petition of Citizens.
Consider Adopting a Proclamation Acknowledging Constitution Week.
Presentation by Friends of Kafer Park.
Note: Kafer Park has been used for professional and semi-professional sports in the past but has gone disused since a Negro League team disbanded in 1965. A group proposes the baseball field be brought back to life, including a stadium. Check out the PowerPoint presentation for these plans. – Ed
Presentation on Preliminary Plans for Use of Grant Funds Received for Martin Marietta Park.
Aerial photo provided by the City of New Bern shows Martin Marietta Park in the foreground.
The City of New Bern will receive $475,000 to begin Phase I of Martin Marietta Park located on S. Glenburnie Road. This funding will help kick off creation of the city’s largest ever park.
The Governor’s Office released a list of 27 parks and recreation projects across the state that will receive funding through the NC Parks & Recreation Trust Fund, including Martin Marietta Park.
New Bern Parks & Recreation staff applied for the NC PARTF grant in May and learned last week that the City would be awarded funding. The money will be used to install a children’s playground, boat launch, fishing pier, picnic shelter, park benches, multi-purpose trails, nature trail, and nature observation deck.
The funds will also be used to create gravel parking lots, improve road conditions throughout the park, and purchase appropriate park signage. General site preparation and supportive utility work are included in the grant funding.
“This is a big step toward the development of Martin Marietta Park,” Foster Hughes, director of Parks & Recreation for the City of New Bern, said in a prepared statement. “This park is a valuable asset to the City and this grant will help us enhance residents and visitors ability to enjoy recreational amenities across nearly 900 acres of land and lakes.” The City anticipates construction will begin in January 2019.
Last September, Martin Marietta donated approximately 55 acres along South Glenburnie Road to the City of New Bern with the recommendation that the land be used to create a regional park. The additional acreage completed a contiguous stretch of land totaling 888 acres owned by the City of New Bern.
In the spring of 2018, the City invited public comment on proposed amenities residents would like to see inside the park. Those surveys and comments were collected and analyzed by independent consultant McGill & Associates, which assisted the City in creating a master plan for the park.
In April, the Board of Aldermen approved moving forward with the master plan which includes walking, running and cycling paths and trails, an outdoor performance area, open space for recreation and environmental stewardship, water activities and adventure activities.
Aldermen meet this evening to hold a public hearing into how the city will spend taxpayer and user fee money during the next fiscal year.
This is the first budget for the newly coined Board of Aldermen, which met during budget workshops last week that lasted just over 11 hours.
As presented by city staff, the draft budget is fairly status quo and would not result in any additional taxes or fees. However, City Manager Mark Stephens also laid out a number of steps aldermen could take to raise addition revenue to pay for new projects. (Fun fact: “Raise revenue” is boffin-speak for new fees and higher taxes.)
That’s where you come in. This evening’s meeting is when average citizens (that is, those who don’t have board members on speed dial or over for a round of golf) have their say on how the city should spend its money.
During last week’s workshops, which were public but extremely tedious to sit through (video here), board members set up a virtual “parking lot” that includes projects, initiatives and wishes that were not included in the draft budget.
Included in the parking lot are things like $75,000 toward a long-promised community center in the Pleasant Hill community, employee pay raises, aldermen pay raises, and a second animal control officer.
But the biggest thing in the parking lot is $350,000 for six additional firefighter positions that would be based at Fire Station 2 on Thurman Road.
One truck company is based at the station now, but because of OSHA rules, those firefighters can’t enter a burning building until a second truck arrives, usually from the Headquarters Station near downtown New Bern. That could take as long as 10 minutes, an eternity in terms of protecting life and property in a structure fire.
Much of New Bern is well-protected by existing Fire Department manpower and equipment, but the fringes of the city are not. Increasing staffing at Station 2 would plug one gap, but others remain that will have to be addressed over time and as money becomes available.
(A third fire station is on Elizabeth Avenue, covering the north and west ends of New Bern.)
City Hall provides a wide range of services: electric, water and sewer; street maintenance; parks and recreation; law enforcement; fire protection and EMS; and dozens of smaller services.
Keeping it all going while at the same time controlling costs is a challenging thing.
For example, the city operates and maintains 25 parks, many of which are small neighborhood playgrounds. Some of these playgrounds were built in neighborhoods that once crawled with children but are now dominated by senior citizens. City officials estimate about a half dozen city parks go unused.
At the same time, the city has acquired a huge parcel that will become Martin Marietta Park, but work on that won’t commence until the city has secured a $475,000 grant to kickstart plans.
Newly minted City Parks Director Foster Hughes has been rolling out maintenance of city parks, some of which have been sorely neglected for years. Kidsville, a popular wooden playground, has been closed until it can be renovated, for example.
Meanwhile, over in water and sewer, a funny thing happened. The city has been growing at a respectable 2-3 percent, according to city officials, but water usage (and subsequent sewer usage) are declining because of effective water conservation.
At rates seen a decade ago, the city would be looking at expanding water and sewer capacity about now, but conservation has given years of life to existing capacity.
Still, revenue has not increased to match demand. To avoid fee increases, the city will need to maintain its current growth rate of 2-3 percent. A downturn in the economy will force the city to raise fees to make up the difference.
New Bern Parks & Recreation is looking for artists who need studio space. The Artist in Residence program offers emerging to mid-range local artists the opportunity to work in an open studio with public interaction. The open studio space is located at 408 Hancock St., formerly the New Bern Firemen’s Museum.
The open studio space, located downtown, gives artists an opportunity to be a part of a growing art scene and to bring culture and vibrancy to our community. Artists can apply for a rented studio space by completing an application. If approved, they’ll have access to 96 square feet of space with Wi-Fi access included. Rents are currently charged at $175 per month. Applications and rental requirements are posted on the city website.
“This is a perfect opportunity and a beautiful open space for artists who want to contribute to the community,” said Foster Hughes, Director of Parks & Recreation. “We’re hopeful that artists with talents in multiple disciplines and media will fill the space with creative expression and a spirit of collaboration.”
The Artist in Residence program also gives renters access to exhibition, teaching, and professional development opportunities. The building is fully handicap accessible and all artists are encouraged to apply. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older to rent space and a commitment to volunteering through docent services or teaching/workshops for the public and youth groups is strongly encouraged. Space will be awarded to applicants who best demonstrate commitment to their practice and experimentation and innovation in their work.
If you have questions about the Artist in Residence program, studio accessibility, or would like more information, email Foster Hughes, Director of Parks & Recreation.
Preliminary plans have been released for the proposed 850-acre Martin Marietta Park that depict something the size and scope of which would make it one of the most significant municipal parks in the state.
Aldermen, the mayor, staff and advisers will meet upstairs at City Hall at 1 p.m. Monday to discuss the park and a proposed city redevelopment area and commission. (Link to agenda; note that the link has a limited shelf life.)
As depicted in maps, Martin Marietta Park would include a large amphitheater, swimming area, boating area, hiking trails and numerous other features. The plan does not indicate how the city would pay for developing the park.
The popular Harry Goodman Battlefield Adventure Day for children is Saturday, March 24 at New Bern Battlefield Park.
A day full of learning activities, period games and living history, it is held annually at the park, which has been recently upgraded by the New Bern Historical Society. The event is for boys and girls ages 6-12 years old and an adult. Check-in begins at 11:30 a.m. with activities from noon to 4:00 p.m.
Young recruits and their parents will be greeted by re-enactors from the 5th N.C. Regiment, the 7th N.C. Regiment and artillery from McCullough Living History. The newly “enlisted” recruits can choose to participate in practice drills or Civil War period activities and crafts. They will also take part in Civil War era games.
Historical Society battlefield guides will provide an informative and entertaining walking tour of the battlefield. A commissary lunch, provided by Moore’s Olde Tyme Barbeque will be served to each young recruit and adult. After lunch, the day’s activities will conclude with a battle re-enactment that includes the children.
Cost is $10 for one child with accompanying adult, plus $5 for each additional child or adult, with a $20 maximum for a family. Special price for active duty military and families qualifying for free/reduced school lunch program.
For more information or to register, call New Bern Historical Society at 252-638-8558 or go register online.
New Bern Battlefield Park is located off U.S. 70 at the entrance to the Taberna subdivision at 300 Battlefield Trail. This program is supported through the generosity of the family of Harry K. Goodman, who was key to the preservation and restoration of the Battlefield Park.
The mission of the New Bern Historical Society is to celebrate and promote New Bern and its heritage through events and education. Offices are located in the historic Attmore Oliver House at 511 Broad St. in New Bern. For more information, call 252-638-8558 or go www.NewBernHistorical.org or www.facebook.com/NewBernHistoricalSociety
New Bern Parks and Recreation is holding a public input meeting on Monday, March 12 to review the proposed Master Plan for Martin Marietta Park.
The meeting will be held at the West New Bern Recreation Center, located at 1225 Pine Tree Drive in New Bern. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for an informal review of the Plan. A formal presentation will begin at 6 p.m.
During this meeting, results from the previous public input meeting as well as the recent Recreation Needs Survey will be discussed. City staff as well as planning partners, McGill Associates, will be on hand to answer questions.
“McGill Associates took the recommendations received from the previous public input meeting and the Recreation Needs Survey and combined that information into, what we think, will be an exciting park that will draw not only residents, but visitors from all around. I look forward to hearing comments from the public at this meeting.” said City of New Bern Director of Parks and Recreation Foster Hughes.
In September of 2017, Martin Marietta donated 55 acres along South Glenburnie Road to the City of New Bern. These 55 acres complete a contiguous stretch of land and lakes totaling approximately 888 acres that are owned by the City of New Bern.
Martin Marietta’s donation coincides with the city’s vision to create a regional park with multi-recreational opportunities and the potential for an outdoor amphitheater capable of hosting various entertainment and performances.
For additional information on the master plan process, contact Hughes at 252-639-2915.
The late Steve Jobs is often touted as one of the great innovators of the age, but his real genius was in taking ideas from others, tweaking them, and selling them.
Jobs didn’t invent the computer mouse, smart phone or the MP3 player, for example; others came up with those ideas, but his tweaks changed everything.
Taking cues from Steve Jobs, the City of New Bern has gone into he business of taking others ideas, as well.
For example, take the Farmer’s Market.
For $1 per year, the Farmers Market was leasing city-owned land at South Front and Hancock streets coveted by developers. Everyone was happy, the Farmers Market thrived, and neighboring businesses enjoyed the extra foot traffic Farmer’s Market attracted.
Meanwhile, the city was saddled with a blighted piece of property off First Street zoned for heavy commercial use that it will never be able to sell because of decades of accumulated pollutants from the power plant that once stood there.
On a tear to unload surplus property, here was one property the city could not unload, so it sought alternatives.
City officials thought they could kill two birds with one stone. They approached Farmers Market leaders about moving to the First Street power plant property, a concept called City Market. Moving Farmer’s Market would free up city-owned land it could sell, and put to use city-owned property the city could not sell.
Farmers Market board members didn’t like the idea. They are doing well where they are and the rent they paid to the city for the property was almost nothing. Also, the present location brings in casual visitors who are downtown for other reasons.
Downtown businesses didn’t like the idea, either. They see Farmers Market as an additional attraction that fills restaurants and shops with customers on mornings when the Farmers Market is open.
At the moment, almost nobody goes to the old power plant, and other than Lawson Creek Park across the road, there is nothing else for people to do in that section of town.
It started to get ugly, as things often do when one opposes City Hall. There were veiled threats of eviction countered by a petition that gathered 15,400 signatures from people opposed to the Farmer’s Market moving.
At some point city officials realized that the Farmer’s Market had an ace up its sleeve: Although its lease with the city was about to expire, it had the option to extend it for one more year. That would have put the city in the awkward position of evicting a beloved downtown institution right in time for the 2017 municipal elections.
The city backed off. Rather than let a squabble with Farmers Market and downtown merchants drive the 2017 municipal elections, the city was forced into another lease. This time, however, it increased the rent from $1 a year to $500 per month.
The idea seemed to wither away. There was no further public discussion about outdoor vendor sales at the old power plant property. But meanwhile, city officials worked out a deal for Craven Community College to use the First Street main building for vocational classes, calling it the Volt Center (a nod to the building’s past as an electric plant).
Then on Feb. 13, the City Market plan sprang forth once more. The city is now seeking grant funding to help pay for outdoor vending areas, a market, a commercial kitchen accelerator, and an inventor’s space.
As city director of Development Services Jeff Ruggieri said, the idea never went away. But now, rather than forcing the Farmer’s Market to move, the city now looks poised to go in head-to-head competition with the Farmer’s Market.
It’s an odd thing, the city trying to compete with an existing commercial operation. Alderman Jeffrey Odham has said he wanted to run the city more like a business, but this? Start a business? One that competes with existing businesses?
And it’s not the only one.
In January, a private artists group approached the city seeking approval to rent the old Firemen’s Museum on Hancock Street.
A little background on that: after he became mayor, Dana Outlaw began a push to unload as much surplus city property as possible. The Hancock Street museum property was on the list, and the city gave the bum’s rush to the Firemen’s Museum, forcing it to rush fundraising efforts to pay for renovations of the old Broad Street Fire House so the museum could move there.
Outlaw and city staff envisioned selling the old museum site on Hancock Street, but when bids came in, they didn’t meet minimum requirements. The building is a fairly large commercial space suitable for a restaurant or even a microbrewery, but there’s a problem: it has no parking.
True, there’s a city-owned parking lot right next to it, but the downtown parking plan calls for the city to reduce the number of leased spaces, not increase the number. And the city parking lot at New and Hancock streets is a pretty important component to the city’s master parking plan.
So, like the old power plant on First Street, the city found itself with a substantial piece of real estate that is virtually unsellable.
It makes one wonder whether city officials do any research into these things before jumping in.
Back to the artists’ group. It had lost its existing location and was basically homeless and in a bind. They thought that perhaps they could rent the Hancock Street property from the city for, say, $500 a month — the same thing Farmer’s Market was paying for its piece of prime real estate.
Good idea, Mayor Outlaw said. More research is needed. Could be the city would pay them, rather than the other way around.
But that’s not how it turned out.
Meetings were held and the city came back with a plan: The city Parks and Recreation Department would open up its own art gallery and artist space at the old Firemen’s Museum — and make money doing it.
That private artists group? Still homeless, although they are welcome to apply to use the city-owned, city-run artists gallery along with everyone else.
So, yeah, those are two examples of the city shouldering its way into areas previously the domain of private groups.
A little bit sneaky, a little big underhanded. But unlike Steve Jobs, who bought or stole proven, successful ideas and made them better, the city still has to prove whether it is any good at running an outdoor market and an artists gallery, both of which have existing and entrenched competition in the city.
But, paraphrasing a line from Steve Jobs when he would announce new products, in the sneaky, underhanded department, that’s not all.
City Market is a triangular piece of property, with the Ghent neighborhood on one side, a mixed residential-commercial street on one side, and Country Club Road/First Street on the remaining side.
City Hall is giving that section of the city a lot of love and attention recently. Lawson Creek Park is right there and has benefited from a lot of improvements: a reconfigured and beautified entrance, a ball field, and more.
The city moved its Parks and Recreation offices to a building off Country Club Road, and is seeking funding to improve boat access there.
And it has worked with the state to reconfigure Country Club Road/First Street from four ugly, unsafe, ugly lanes of traffic, to two beautiful, safe, beautiful lanes of traffic with a center turn lane, bike lanes on both sides, and broad sidewalks stretching from Broad Street/Neuse Boulevard all the way to Pembroke Avenue.
Because that stretch of street is actually part of N.C. Highway 55, the state is paying for the improvements with a couple of small conditions: the city has to take care of moving street side utilities, for example. Oh, and the city can’t put the entrance to City Market on First Street.
Seems like a pretty small thing for the state to worry about, but the reasoning is sound: the entrance would be close to a blind curve and too close to the onramps and offramps at U.S. 70.
That means the entrance to City Market will have to be behind it, on Rhem Street (not to be confused with nearby Rhem Avenue).
Shouldn’t be a problem. The city gas station is there, but it is going to move it.
But if state Department of Transportation engineers take a close look at what the city has in mind, they’ll find that it’s a much worse option than a City Market entrance on First Street.
Rhem Street and the entrance to Lawson Creek Park form a four-way intersection with Country Club Road. There’s that same blind curve that DOT was worried about in one direction, and it’s even closer to the U.S. 70 offramps and onramps than a First Street entrance to City Market.
With traffic throttled from four lanes to two lanes after the street is reconfigured, traffic at that intersection is going to get very cosy. Many motorists will opt to reach City Market from the other direction, turning on to Second Street from Trent Boulevard.
Oh, but wait. Second Street is where Ghent Neighborhood residents have been complaining about heavy traffic (an average of 1,500 cars per day on a four-block, two-lane residential street). Full disclosure: I live off Second Street.
Second Street is an example an exasperated City Manager Mark Stephans sidesteps by pointing to all the things the city — no, he himself — has done for the Ghent neighborhood to address speeders on Spencer Avenue. (Ignoring complaints about speeders on Park Avenue.)
Referring to Second Street, Stephans said the city has moved its warehouse and will be moving its filling station, so that should be enough to satisfy the Ghent neighborhood. He says it as if they have gone to so much trouble, but they were doing it anyway.
What he’s not saying, and this is where “sneaky and underhanded” comes in, is that Second Street at Trent Boulevard is going to become a major access point to City Market.
Now let’s put this in perspective. If a private company were to propose putting a high-use business where the city plans to put City Market, say a hotel, the city planning department would be all over the developer to deal with traffic issues.
But the city is not a private company. It is free to ignore any issues its projects cause on surrounding properties.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
I’ve been wondering for some time why City Hall is so resistant to solving the high traffic problem on Second Street. When Alderman Sabrina Bengel suggested that Second Street be blocked at Trent Boulevard, city staff dug in its heels.
Whatever reasons city officials give against closing Second Street or reconfiguring it to reduce traffic, the real reason has been lurking in the dark for well over a year.
City Hall doesn’t want to decrease traffic from 1,500 cars a day. City Hall wants to increase traffic even further.