Friday, April 12, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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“A lasting gift. . .”

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Sam Powell, who had been the Sesquicentennial co-chairman of the county celebration in 1999 had said in 2021, when there had been some advocacy for re-naming the park, that the park had been built and dedicated as a “lasting gift” to the community after the yearlong celebration of the county’s 1849 founding.

In an interview this week, he also acknowledged the challenges with upkeep of the park.

Graham’s right to do as it pleases with Sesquicentennial Park seems to be borne out by county property records – and in particular, the deed transfer documents that were filed with the Register of Deeds in September of 1998.

The deed itself indicates that the city had obtained the property from a limited liability corporation dubbed Court Square Associates for a sale price of $55,000.

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According to this document, the city acquired the land “to have and to hold” in “fee simple” along with “all privileges and appurtenances” attached to the land. The only exceptions to these otherwise sweeping powers are summed up in a boilerplate clause that notes the property’s “conveyance is subject to [unspecified] restrictive covenants, rights of way, and statements of record” – “if any” actually exist.

Graham’s ownership of the park is further corroborated by a proclamation that Alamance County’s commissioners issued to mark the park’s dedication in November of 2000. Although the proclamation describes this “garden-park” as a “lasting gift to the citizens of the community,” it also notes that the park was developed “on property owned by the city of Graham.”

This apparent lack of encumbrances comports with the recollections of Sam Powell, a one-time member of the county’s board of commissioners who also served as a co-chair of the now defunct planning committee that oversaw the development of Sesquicentennial Park.

Powell said that, as a member of this appointed group, it was his understanding that Graham would retain outright ownership of the park’s grounds once they were dedicated.

“The Sesquicentennial Committee gave it to the city of Graham for its use,” he recalled in an interview Wednesday. “It was a gift to the people of Alamance County. But it went to the city of Graham for upkeep.”

Powell conceded that Graham’s plans to raze this commemorative enclave might not go over well with some of the residents who had donated funds to develop the park. He nevertheless acknowledged that the park’s ongoing maintenance presents the city with some daunting challenges that weren’t evident at the dedication ceremony in 2000.

“There is an issue where part of the wall has sunk,” he added, “so there’s a question of what to do about it. The city could demolish the wall, rebuild the foundation, pack the dirt, and rebuild the wall. But that’s an expense that the city of Graham really shouldn’t have to bear. Still, I’d like to see [the property] remain as Sesquicentennial Park.”

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