First Park for Historic Princeville, NC

Princeville, N.C., 4/7/2003?- The nation’s first town incorporated by freed slaves after the Civil War has purchased a new amenity that town leaders say could make an enormous impact on a place that is overcoming an epic flood — land for a sparkling new park. And the 11 acres on the site of a washed-out mobile home site will do a lot more than give Princeville an emerald of green: it will give kids a place to play, and provide everyone a badly-needed dose of civic pride.

“This will be great for the community, especially the youth,” says Princeville Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates. “The park will give the youth something to do that will occupy their time and keep them out of crime. I am really excited about this, and it is good for people in this town to see we can accomplish our goals.”

Adds Princeville Town Manager Bobby Hopkins, “In the past, Princeville has been one of those places that kids can’t wait to leave. The park is going to provide all kinds of recreational opportunities. It’s going to be a place children can go and call their own.”

For the residents of Princeville, that means creating Riverside Heritage Park, which will contain playgrounds, picnic areas, sports fields and a community center. The land will serve as a primary access point to the Princeville Heritage Trail, a historic walking trail along the Tar River that is envisioned as both a town commons and economic engine drawing tourists interested in the area’s culture and sense of place in American history.

Princeville’s acquisition of Riverside Heritage Park is being made possible by a public-private partnership involving The Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation (the philanthropic arm of Lowe’s Companies, Inc.), which awarded a $165,750 grant to Princeville to match a gift of the same size made by the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. The grant was obtained for the town by the North Carolina office of the Trust for Public Land (TPL) — a national land conservation organization which also conducted the real estate negotiations and held the land for a year until funding arrangements were finalized.

“Lowe’s has worked miracles for us,” Everette-Oates says of the company that also furnished materials for a dozen homes after Hurricane Floyd buried the town beneath 20 feet of Tar River water for 10 days in 1999. “The Trust for Public Land has also been a great help. Thanks to Lowe’s and TPL, this park project is going to be successful.”

According to a Lowe’s spokesman, a town hit with as much adversity as Princeville deserves all the help it can get.

“The devastation that Princeville experienced from Hurricane Floyd was almost unparalleled,” says Community Relations Manager Robert Egleston. “Princeville truly faced the prospect of being totally destroyed when the dike broke. It is indeed heartening to see the town’s spirit of survival, and Lowe’s is humbled to do its part to ensure that Princeville succeeds in rebuilding stronger than before.”

TPL-Carolinas Interim Director Saxby Chaplin, meanwhile, sees the public-private partnership as exactly the kind of initiative needed in today’s tight economic conditions.

“Government alone simply doesn’t have the resources to support every town that wants to protect its natural and historic resources,” he says. “The private and nonprofit sectors have to play major roles in this effort, and Lowe’s is leading the pack when it comes to demonstrating what it means to be a part of the communities it serves. I hope the Riverside Heritage Park project inspires other partnerships that accomplish things just as spectacular.”

About TPL: Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land specializes in conservation real estate — applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Across the nation, TPL has saved more than 1.4 million acres of land.

About Lowe’s: With 2002 sales of $26.5 billion, Lowe’s Companies, Inc., is a Fortune 100 company that serves approximately nine million customers a week at more than 850 home improvement stores in 45 states. In 2003, FORTUNE named Lowe’s America’s Most Admired Specialty Retailer. Based in Wilkesboro, N.C., the 57-year-old company is the second-largest home improvement retailer in the world.