in Follow-Up, Futurist, Geezer, Parks and Rec, Politics, Raleigh

Highlights of 2015: Dix Park, part II

Dix Park proponents at Council of State meeting. L-R, Mayor Nancy McFarlane, City Manager Ruffin Hall, Councilor Kay Crowder, Dix Visionaries member Jay Spain, Councilor Russ Stephenson

Dix Park proponents at May 2015 Council of State meeting. L-R, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, City Manager Ruffin Hall, City Councilor Kay Crowder, Friends of Dix Park member Jay Spain, City Councilor Russ Stephenson

2015 was the year that the City of Raleigh finally got the prize it had long sought from the state: the deed to the Dorothea Dix property. In February, the city and state worked out a deal for Raleigh to purchase the property for $53 million dollars. This is far more than the original lease terms (under the first deal that was subsequently torn up by a spiteful General Assembly) and also far more than most state property that gets transferred to local entities. Apparently, Republican leaders in the Gereral Assembly have no problem with burdening people with taxes as long as the urban folk who have to pay.

Anyway, this time the deal got negotiated and signed behind the scenes. The group on whose board I sit, Friends of Dorothea Dix Park (FDDP), was largely kept in the dark about negotiations (though I knew talks were underway). It’s all the same now that the park has been secured, though. I did get to attend the following Council of State meeting on May 5th where the rest of state leaders signed off on the deal. This is my photo of city and Dix Visionaries leaders after the historic event.

Now the focus is on what to do with the park. This is going to be a years-long effort to make the best decisions for Dix Park: no one involved with this wants to screw this up. The choices made now will live on in the park for decades. I think such long-term planning is not the norm in this area and so it will be a unique opportunity in that regard alone.

Just before the holidays my name was submitted to serve on the upcoming park planning commission as a representative of FDDP. Nothing’s been made official yet, no one has reached out yet – heck, I don’t even know if there is a planning commission yet. There eventually will be, and I am honored that my FDDP colleagues have considered me for a role. It would be such an honor to serve the city in helping guide this amazing public park.

I think of my kids and how our experiences together with Raleigh’s parks helped color my views while I served on Raleigh’s Parks board. Should I help plan Dix Park, my mind’s eye will be on what kind of place might serve my kids when they’re grown, and what place might one day serve my grandkids. As the (alleged) Greek proverb says:

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”