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Options for relocating Sesquicentennial Park to be presented to Graham city council Tuesday

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Graham’s city council is scheduled to hear a report at its upcoming meeting Tuesday night about the feasibility of relocating Sesquicentennial Park from its current home on the northeast corner of Court Square in downtown Graham to one of a half-dozen other properties that the city owns.

City officials have said that the “floor” of the park – constructed from brick pavers that donors purchased to subsidize the county’s 150th anniversary celebration in 1999 – has begun sinking in recent years.

City officials are considering declaring the city-owned park property as surplus and selling it, rather than repair it, though the costs to repair the base and reinstall the shelter and pavers remain unknown.

“Staff had an onsite meeting with a contractor at Sesquicentennial Park to get a rough estimate of what the repair in place and relocate options would look like,” Graham city manager Megan Garner told The Alamance News Wednesday.  “We provided them a copy of the original plans and are waiting on that information from the contractor.”

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Graham city council members have discussed the possibility of relocating the park earlier this spring, with Graham mayor Jennifer Talley floating the idea that a developer might build a structure in its place that would resemble a three-story building that had occupied the site between 1902 and the 1960s.Graham’s public works director Burke Robertson evaluated nine city-owned properties as possible sites on which to relocate Sesquicentenial Park, based on a copy of the report that Garner provided to the newspaper Wednesday.

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Of the nine potential sites he looked at, Robertson concluded that only four city-owned properties have enough space and suitable topographical conditions to serve as a potential future home for Sesquicentennial Park.

The four viable options include: Bill Cooke Park; a “free speech zone” (i.e., the lawn outside city hall) along South Main Street; beside the Graham Civic Center; and a vacant lot spanning two-tenths of an acre at the corner of North Marshall and East Hill streets, based on Robertson’s report.

The city’s public works director concluded that five other city-owned properties aren’t viable to rebuild Sesquicentennial Park:

  • Graham Recreation Center at 311 College Street, which he said lacks sufficient space to accommodate the park;
  • An area across from a city park on Oakley Street, which has grading and soil problems;
  • An un-opened right-of-way adjacent to 320 West Gilbreath Street that lacks sufficient width to duplicate the park;
  • West Elm Street boulevard, which lacks water and power service, as well as adequate room for parking;
  • And an unaddressed property along “Paris Street boulevard,” which the public works director says is bisected by a storm drain and sewer line.

 

Bill Cooke Park

In his report, Robertson, the public works director, noted that the Sesquicentenial Park could be rebuilt in place of an existing basketball court at Bill Cooke Park.  The basketball court would be moved to the west side of a maintenance building and would have the added benefit of mitigating complaints about noise and language on the basketball court.

Robertson’s report, however, does not elaborate on why water and sewer would be needed at a future location if, in fact, the council were to move forward with moving Sesquicentennial Park from Court Square.

As it currently exists, Sesquicentennial Park spans seven-tenths of an acre and features a pergola with seasonal plantings, a foundation with donated brick pavers, and several park benches.

The Bill Cooke Park site has power, water, and parking, and would require little grading or other site improvements, though the soil may be unsuitable, Robertson stated in his report.  “The negatives are cost of relocating [the] basketball court,” he wrote, and the current design of Sesquicentenial Park doesn’t fit with the rest of Bill Cooke Park.

An existing cabin also would need to be demolished, according to the public works director, “due to its condition” and concerns about safety hazards with the cabin structure.

 

City Hall free speech zone

A “free speech zone” at city hall – a portion of the lawn at 201 South Main Street – also could provide a feasible location on which to rebuild Sesquicentennial Park, based on Robertson’s evaluation and forthcoming report to the council.

However, the public works director also advised that the flag pole and the existing Frasier fir used for the annual Christmas tree display would need to be situated elsewhere, and water/service to the building would need to be relocated and would still create what he termed “site triangle issues.”

“Due to the size of the Christmas tree,” Robertson concluded, “it may not survive the move, and modifications to the park will be needed to allow egress from the door leaving [the council’s] chambers.”

 

Vacant lot at corner North Marshall & East Hill streets

Robertson said that the vacant lot spanning two-tenths of an acre is large enough to serve as a future home of Sesquicentenial Park, but noted several drawbacks to that location.

“The negatives to this location are getting water, power to the lot, and parking,” his report stated.  “The well house would have to be removed and well abandoned,” Robertson wrote, adding, “the design of the park does not fit the area.”

 

Graham Civic Center

Robertson appears to have determined that the most viable location at which to move Sesquicentennial Park would be the Graham Civic Center at 503 McGee Street, based on the report that will be presented to the council at its next meeting on Tuesday night.

“The design fits the area and we already provide high ends grounds maintenance at that location,” Robertson wrote.  “Water and power are already on-site, accessibility is good, and there is parking available with room to increase if needed.  The location would allow for the vines in the original design to be used.  It would add to this location and possibly increase rental options for [the] civil center.”

However, the public works director acknowledged that an existing volleyball court and gazebo would need to be relocated, though he didn’t speculate about possible future locations where those amenities might fit.

Graham city council members are currently scheduled to resume their discussion about whether to repair Sesquicentennial Park – or raze and rebuild it elsewhere – at their next meeting Tuesday night.

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