The next step for Aycock

During a joint meeting between the Greensboro and Guilford County Parks & Rec Commissions back in May, Guilford County’s Community Development Director Rob Bencini gave those assembled a summary of what was going to be included in the proposed $20M Guilford County P&R bond offering his department was hoping to get on the November ballot.

Bencini said part of the package could include money to upgrade or create 10 as-then-unidentified ”school parks” throughout the county.  He asked if anyone had suggestions as to what schools that might be in need of, and have the space for, such a facility which would become a part of the County’s system of “shared use facilities” for P&R functions.

Back in 2002, when the Aycock Neighborhood was developing it’s master plan (PDF,166 pages) we had the team of planners and architects include a track and field facility in the large lot behind Aycock Middle School to provide the community with a first class recreational facility.  The neighborhood adopted the track as part of the plan and I later presented it to the Greensboro P&R Commission as part of our proposed public space improvements for the future along with enhancements to Sternberger Park, War Memorial/Farmer’s Market upgrades and others.  The City Council adopted our strategic plan (PDF file) last November but we all knew finding the money for everything would be the greatest challenge we would face.

When Bencini asked for input for school park candidates, I suggested Aycock.  I further explained that because Aycock was an “inner city” Greensboro school such a plan could have wide appeal to many voters downtown…. Yesterday I read in the N&R (actually the schools were identified on an un-posted map) that Aycock is included as a target school for the bond package and could receive $300,000.

After seeing our school on the list my first thought was, “Crap, I should have made sure the damn thing will fit on the property.”  I, along with the neighborhood planners, had done some preliminary measuring (we walked off the yardage) and felt like a full sized running track would fit, but we never did actually use a measuring tape.  Also, I have no idea what such a facility might cost.  I figured I better get a handle on it, so yesterday was full of phone calls.

I called Bencini and told him “thanks” for including Aycock and explained my dilemma and he has put me in contact with the right people to create a proposal, hopefully in time for the August 5th public hearing on the bonds.  My district’s County Commissioner Skip Alston was next.  He urged me to get a preliminary bid because he doesn’t think that $300k would be enough to get it done.  I then talked to school Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier who was quite excited by the idea and thinks he can pull together some space requirements and costs estimates pretty quickly because Hairston Middle recently had such a facility installed when that new school was built two years ago.

I also contacted Nike yesterday.  They are offering grants of up to $50,000 for track installations. If the Aycock proposal gets on the ballot, and the bond is accepted by the voters, this grant money could be leveraged to take the project even further.

I guess the lesson of yesterday’s events is “be careful what you ask for” because sometime the most fortuitous things can happen at the most inopportune times.  Work is pressing, kids are getting ready for school, last minute vacations are being planned, PTA’s are firing up… so there is scant time for such an undertaking. 

If I got paid for volunteer/advocacy hours, I’d be in tall cotton.

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