It no longer is necessary for children and adults to have to wade through a broken glass and debris-strewn narrow pathway and then navigate down a steep embankment in order to reach Gordon Heights Park from the cul-de-sac at the end of Morris Drive; or if refusing that, travel to Dudley Drive and proceed nearly one mile in order to get to the park.
Thanks to the joint effort of board members of the RCI (Residents for Community Improvements) and those in the neighborhood, a walkway linking the park to the older section of Gordon Heights to its newer development was constructed and was dedicated Saturday, April 12.
“The area was rugged. I’m just glad no one was ever injured.” said Gloria Washington, with the RCI, who welcomed all present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This has been in the making since 2010.”
At the time, said Washington, meetings and discussions with county administration members took place, as well as on-site visitations by Mike Callender, Parks and Recreation Manager for the Board of County Commissioners and District 2 Commissioner Melony Bell before the decision was made to build the walkway.
“It has not been a simple task, especially due to some engineering and design work that could not be accomplished without the cooperation of private property owner Raymond Dahlan,” said Washington. Dahlan, who would later admit he was not aware he owned the stretch of property, willingly donated it in order to facilitate the walkway’s construction.
Without question, construction of the walkway was a joyous occasion for the residents, with shouts of hallelujah and amen often interspersed among the prayers offered by several area pastors.
“We celebrate because a prayer has been answered,” said Donnie Allen, a board member of the RCI, who also served as moderator.
Because Bell was out of town for a daughter’s wedding, Commissioner Edwin V. Smith filled in on behalf of the BOCC. His presentation was a combination of humor and praise.
“I asked them what did they want to speak about, and they told me, ‘About three minutes,’” joked Smith, and then he turned serious about the walkway. “It’s a beautiful thing, it’s a wonderful thing.”
Even so, said Callender, it was not an easy accomplishment.
“Simple things turned out to be difficult at times,” said Callender. In addition to discovering the property where part of the walkway was planned, there also was the requirement of being ADA-compliant (Americans with Disabilities Act), as well as drainage concerns. Earlier, Callender had estimated the total cost of the project was approximately $50,000 ($49,800), but stated it was worth it.
“What this little bit of sidewalk does is connect two communities together,” said Callender, “And that’s a big deal.”
While there were those quite comfortable speaking publicly, Dahlan was not one of them and appeared ill at ease and spoke for less than a minute.
“It was my pleasure to donate this to the park,” he said of the strip of land he ceded to the county. Dahlan would later admit he was not aware he owned the stretch of property willingly donated it in order to facilitate the walkway’s construction.
Following the ribbon- cutting that marked the official opening of the walkway, residents, dignitaries and guests gathered at the cul-de-sac for an inaugural walk.