HOFFMAN — As a youth basketball coach in New York City, Ricardo Anderson saw firsthand how public parks can cultivate a sense of community.
Parks boost civic pride and steer kids toward sports and away from trouble, said Anderson, a Hoffman town commissioner eager to bring the best of his days in the five boroughs to his adopted hometown in Richmond County.
“It gives kids a chance to do something instead of running around, hanging out in the projects,” he said. “It gives our children and our grandchildren a place to go.”
Local leaders gathered Tuesday morning to break ground on the Hoffman Town Park and unveil a sign marking the green space’s future home on U.S. 1 South. Construction on the park’s first phase is set to begin this summer.
“People drive by and they keep on going without even a look,” Anderson said. “Now they’ll see the park and the kids will say, ‘Mommy, Mommy, let’s stop the car!’ I think it will put the town on the map a little bit.”
The town has $174,000 budgeted for the first phase — half from Hoffman’s budget and the remaining $87,000 from a North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund matching grant.
“Right now, we’re looking to do what we can for the children in our community, our next generation,” said Hoffman Mayor Tommy Hart. “They need a safe place to play.”
Included in the park’s first phase are a playground, quarter-mile walking trail, picnic shelters, restroom building and parking lot, according to site plans drafted by Pinehurst engineering firm McGill Associates.
The park site, situated on more than 6 acres between U.S. 1 and Bracey Street, offers plenty of room to grow. A proposed second phase calls for an indoor recreation center with basketball courts, an expanded walking trail and a larger parking lot.
“It is a great day in Hoffman,” said state Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond. “Their leadership is proactive instead of reactive. They’re bringing in development themselves. Instead of waiting for somebody to bring something, they’re doing it on their own.”
McInnis and Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, who represent Hoffman in the General Assembly, wrote letters in support of the town’s grant application to the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
Pierce praised town commissioners’ vision and quoted a Greek proverb: “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.”
“What we’re doing is for future generations,” Pierce said. “I think it’s a great thing for the people of Hoffman.”
Local dignitaries including Richmond County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kenneth Robinette and Commissioners Jimmy Capps and Don Bryant were in attendance along with Seth Allen, membership director of the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce.
Residents, town commissioners and area officials gathered at Pleasant Hill Christian Methodist Episcopal Church on Bracey Street, which adjoins the park property, for a dedication ceremony before a project sign provided by McGill Associates was unveiled beside the highway.
Hoffman Commissioners Althea Cobb, Rory Kevin Jones and Daniel T. Kelly, the mayor pro-tem, offered brief remarks, along with McGill Associates engineer Mike Apke and Town Clerk Maggie Bethea.
Anderson, the town commissioner who oversees sanitation, said not everyone in Hoffman supported the new park. He hopes in time that those residents will see the value of a public space where families and children can relax and play in the sunshine.
“You’ve got some people who like it, some people who don’t,” he said. “They’re not used to change. It will be a great thing for the town. I tell them I think it’s a great idea.”
Reach Editor Corey Friedman at 910-817-2670 and follow him on Twitter @corey_friedman.