The Town of Beaufort razed Randolph Johnson Memorial Park earlier this year to make room for a new and improved playground, splash pad and recreation area originally scheduled to open this summer. But, summer is here, and the park is still waiting for consultants to deliver completed site and architectural plans.
“The plans were to be completed in January,” said Town of Beaufort Parks & Events Coordinator Rachel Johnson, who is working on the project. “We purposefully planned the closing of the park so it wasn’t in the summer.”
In addition to the play areas, the park will include a combination restroom and picnic shelter, a grilling area, a music garden, a public art piece, and sidewalks connecting the tennis and basketball courts to the park.
The playground and splash pad equipment were delivered weeks ago, and installers are “ready to move,” Johnson said. But, without a full site plan, none of the equipment can be set up.
The consultants working on the plans delivered a draft to the town in early June. Staff made changes and sent the plans back to the consultants for adjustments. Once those plans are finalized, Johnson said the town will send the work out for bid.
Johnson said the park will open in two stages. If this hurricane season is a quiet one, the playground and picnic shelter should be open before the end of the year. In the spring, the town will open the splash pad and hold a ribbon cutting for the renovated park.
“Beaufort, the town, only has one kids park,” Johnson said. “The goal was to make it something kids would want to go to and be proud to go to.” Until Randolph Johnson is finished, the only public playground in town is at Freedom Park, which is operated by the county.
Both Randolph Johnson Park and the future Cedar Street Park are being funded by a $2 million anonymous donation. $1.4 million of that amount has been earmarked for Randolph Johnson park, but Johnson said a grant, a purchasing discount and donations has offset about $100,000 in expenses so far.
“Community donations are amazing and helping us out even more,” she said, adding that the Parks & Recreation volunteer committee is still seeking charitable gifts.
Any leftover Randolph Johnson funds will be transferred to Cedar Street Park, which will sit a mile away on the westernmost end of Cedar Street, where the drawbridge used to be.
Although Randolph Johnson Park is experiencing major delays, Cedar Street Park has been “fast forwarded” to the planning stage to accommodate the NC Dept. of Transportation’s request for site plans. NCDOT will be repaving Cedar Street before handing the road over to the town.
Once both parks are completed, they will be tied together with a bike path and sidewalks.