Rocky Mount residents wanting to provide input about renovating Battle Park are going to have the chance later this month and early next month.
During Monday’s City Council meeting, City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said three sessions will be held at the Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences. The sessions are set for 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 and Feb. 27 and from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on March 2.
The purpose is to gather information for future master planning for Battle Park, which is on the north side of the Tar River and the south side of U.S. 64 between the Benvenue Road and Church Street exits.
The Explore Nash County tourism website touts the park’s land as the site of what was Rocky Mount’s first post office and the park’s rugged terrain as the source behind the city’s name.
The park is the central hub for the Tar River Trail and Tar River Paddle Trail and includes a boat landing, picnic shelters, fishing piers and a gazebo with a view of the Rocky Mount Mills dam.
Since 2016, the park has been the scene of the annual Tackle the Tar 5K Obstacle Course Race.
The park also is on the opposite side of the Tar River from the constantly growing Rocky Mount Mills mixed-use development.
The city’s Parks and Recreation website said the park, after years of heavy use, needs renovating.
A press release from the city’s Communications and Marketing Department issued Tuesday said the upcoming meetings at the Imperial Centre will allow residents to engage in a conversation about the planning with the parks and recreation staff.
The press release said once the plan is developed, the municipal government intends to use the master document to apply for numerous grants, including from the federal government.
Assistant City Manager Elton Daniels said in the press release that no decisions have been made about architects, contractors and the renovations or the project cost and funding sources.
The press release said the municipal government is working with the CPL architectural, engineering and planning firm to help make the planning process easier.
Small-Toney’s announcement at Monday’s council meeting came as a proverbial bolt from the blue and at the time did not include information beyond the meeting location and times and dates of the meetings.
What quickly followed the council meeting was commentary on social media about an active and ongoing effort to take down the Confederate monument, which is located just south of the interchange with U.S. 64 and Benvenue Road.
The commentary called for people to be a part of the upcoming meetings at the Imperial Centre if they care about preserving Rocky Mount’s history.
The Communications and Marketing Department’s press release said the upcoming meetings are not related to community conversations the city’s Human Relations Department held in 2018 about the monument.
The press release said that is because Battle Park is on an independent parcel of land separate from the monument.
The press release also said the city will be prohibited from using the monument when applying for federal and state grants.
The monument was dedicated in 1917 to honor Nash County’s Confederate dead and has a likeness of a rebel soldier perched on top.
The monument cost $15,000. Adjusted for inflation today, the figure would be more than $300,000.
Nash County property tax records state that in 1976, the since-former Rocky Mount Mills gave the land the monument is on to the city. The records made clear the site had to remain a monument to Confederate soldiers.
Past Telegram files show the monument was repaired and rededicated to honor all Nash and Edgecombe county veterans of all wars. The monument again underwent repairs in 2012.
Since 2015, state law has prohibited removal of an object of remembrance on public property commemorating an event, a person or military service considered part of North Carolina’s history.