First Posted: 7/29/2009
ARARAT, Va. A public park in Ararat continues to take shape through the efforts of community residents and funding sources including Mount Airy businesses.
Dan River Park has been in the works since 2006, with recent developments expected to enhance the project significantly.
It started with a soccer field and its evolved into a full-scale park, said Patrick N. Hall of Benchmark Surveying and Design, a firm that has assisted with its overall design and layout.
We have at this time a baseball and softball field, added Cap Hollingsworth, one of a number of Ararat citizens who have lent their assistance to the facilitys development, headed by the Dan River Park Association.
One key breakthrough of late involves a $136,000 grant being awarded by the Virginia Department of Transportation which will be used to construct a walking trail at the 12-acre park. The money was available from federal gas tax revenues through a program that requires a percentage of those funds to be spent on alternative transportation projects such as trails.
The trail in Ararat, to be six-tenths of a mile with two loops, will connect the park property to Blue Ridge Elementary School, providing access to both sites and allowing students living nearby to walk or ride bikes to school. The paved pathway will be a multi-use facility that also will accommodate bicycling and skateboarding.
While it will be a fairly open trail, Hall said, it will run through a small wooded section. The layout will have a slight rolling terrain accommodating all ability levels, he said, including people in wheelchairs.
In addition to its recreational value, the trail and the park itself will help students learn about nature and other subjects, organizers say.
The Dan River Park Association will be able to solicit bids for the trail project after Oct. 1, when the next federal fiscal year begins. It is expected to be completed sometime early next year.
Another facet of Dan River Park now under way is aimed at providing a two-goal basketball court expected to cost $13,000. Funds are being solicited for that phase, with $1,000 each already pledged by three Mount Airy businesses: Moody Funeral Home, Surrey Bank and Trust and Hiatt Asphalt.
So we lack about $10,000, Hollingsworth said earlier this week. Hollingsworth added that he appreciates the Mount Airy businesses contributing to the effort in Ararat. Since the two communities are only a few miles apart, there is a tremendous kinship between the two, he said, which has included many Ararat residents working and doing business in Surry County through the years.
The plans also include the construction of a tennis court that Ararat native Stuart Epperson, now of Winston-Salem, is supporting, Hollingsworth said.
Were trying to get our picnic pavilion done, too, Janet Epperson, the president of the Dan River Park Association, said of another part of the facility. She said organizers hope to complete the pavilion in time for a Day in the Park event there on Sept. 12.
When youre undertaking something like this, which is to build a park that weve needed for years and got nowhere with, its amazing how much money it takes, Epperson said.
The park receives only $2,000 annually from the Patrick County government, and every other penny we have to raise ourselves, the association president added. The business community has helped fill the void along with governmental grant sources and citizen support.
A big boost was provided early on to the park group by the nearby Primland resort, which donated $150,000 in grading work for the soccer field. But no lights have been installed at the field yet, Epperson said.
The association president said she is submitting an application for another grant that would provide a well to serve the site as well as handicapped-accessibility features.
We can use all the help we can get, Epperson said. Donations may be mailed to the Dan River Park Association, P.O. Box 35, Ararat, VA 24053.
Hall and Hollingsworth recently visited Westwood Park in Mount Airy to glean ideas about future additions for the Dan River facility.
Along with supplying a valuable recreational resource that improves the quality of life for local residents, Epperson views the Ararat park as an economic-development tool that might help this end of the county grow a little more.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.