Highlights of 2011: Mordecai Historic Park

It was a bit unexpected that Mordecai Historic Park would become a milestone of the year 2011. I’ve served on this sleepy little board as the Parks Board liaison since I joined the Parks board but the last year was by far the most eventful.

Things really heated up in the spring when the board was presented with the location options for the Mordecai Historic Park Interpretive Center that’s been on the books for a number of years now. I’ve extensively covered on the blog the pros and cons and the thoughts behind my decision-making process, so I won’t do so again. Highlight entries are for reflection from a bit more distance, though, so from this perspective I see the growth opportunity this event provided me.

Some neighbors became nasty in their response, questioning our motives in a way that made me uncomfortable. I wasn’t used to this kind of criticism and to hear it from folks I had once called friends was difficult to accept. I always strived to maintain the high ground in the face of the opposition and many neighbors reached out to me to express their admiration for the restraint and courtesy I showed. That was really welcomed because the urge to tell some folks where they can go was so, so tempting. The episode showed again that in politics holding one’s tongue can be just as important as wagging it.

The other thing the episode taught me was that you have to make the best of the hand you’re dealt. None of the options the board was given were particularly ideal. We had to work within the parameters we were given and I believe we made the best possible choice. The controversy (while painful) did have the benefit of attracting the attention of city leaders and resulted in them redefining the parameters. The outcome promises to be far better than any of the ones the board could’ve achieved on its own. That’s the silver lining.

On Tuesday, the City Council will receive a recommendation from its Budget and Economic Development committee regarding the Interpretive Center. While city officials have rightfully held the news close to their vests, it appears that something big will be announced. I expect that Tuesday’s announcement will be good news for all involved and that we’ll finally move forward with the Interpretive Center.

The Park played a role in other ways last year. I was elected Vice-Chair which was a nice perk. Travis and I also had a blast playing zombies for the Haunted Mordecai trolley tours around Halloween. Then the whole family wore period costumes to represent Mordecai in the Raleigh Christmas Parade.

This year promises more excitement for the Mordecai board, too, as – unless something changes by May – I will become the most senior boardmember when all but two members rotate off the board at the end of their terms. It’s less than ideal for a board that oversees historic sites to have its own history vanish overnight when seasoned boardmembers all leave at once. Fixing this will require the City Council to suspend the rules and extend the terms of a handful of boardmembers so that board terms are then staggered. With the addition of the Tucker, Borden, and Pope Houses to the domain of Mordecai Historic Park, maintaining a knowledgeable board will become more important than ever.

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