By: Steve Trubilla
Sports fans, we have to get this one right: “Build the “V.E. Owens Fishing Hole and Park” Now!
On Jan. 21, 2010, Edgar H. Owens left us all too soon. I did not know the man personally, but I have learned of him. I know of the Owens family and their deep and meaningful contributions to Franklin County.
Among Owens’ final wishes was that if sufficient funds were available, the county build a lake or pond, stock it with fish, and call it the V.E. Owens Fishing Hole.
Not only was this his wish, he gifted a considerable amount to Franklin County from his estate to allow for it. The numbers vary on the actual amount, ranging from $770,000 to around $1 million.
I could point to countless examples of things and events which ameliorate the lethargic inability of our local elected officials and county executives to effectively dispatch the basic function of government.
One of these is the most recent and abhorring burning of historical records that has now garnered national attention. The occurrence serves as an insult to the memory of those that have come before us, and is an embarrassment to the collective intelligence of the county.
The example I am going to select to make the point is Owens’ wishes and unprecedented generosity with his gift to the county.
It is unconscionable that some four years have lapsed and the V.E. Owens Fishing Hole has not been realized.
Now think about this for a minute. What is the mission? It is to create a park with a fishing hole. We are not talking about solving world hunger, or finding the fountain of youth.
Unlike most things, funding is not an issue. As for a location, for Pete’s sake, it’s Franklin County. It’s not like we are talking about finding land in Manhattan.
Without going into specifics, and it will not come as a revelation to you, there are all kinds of people with “special interest in this.” It seems everyone has a “friend” and there is a lot of money involved.
Let me tell you something about this you may not know. I have been told of one family that in the same spirit as Owens, offered to donate land for this project.
That’s right; donate it, at no cost to the county. My understanding is the land was right along the Tar River. Do you think there are any fish in the river? That would kind of take all, if not most of the “friends and special interest” out of the mix.
There are some 60 acres the county already owns out at the airport. It is in proximity to the illustrious multimillion dollar industrial park.
My information is about 30 of those acres are not needed by the airport. The acreage buffers the Cascine Plantation, land I have been told that cannot be used for anything else.
It would be an ideal high use of the land and value multiplier. This land was paid for by a Department of Transportation Grant.
The county is not now, nor will it ever, collect a dime of property taxes on this land. If other land is purchased for this project, then that land too will be non-revenue generating.
In terms of a vision for the future, the possibilities are endless with this location. Owens’ gift could be used exclusively for development.
Play grounds, quality ones; ball fields, running trails, walking and bicycle paths. Maybe even a place to ride horses. Camping is even a possibility.
This could also be a place to host outdoor revenue generating events, etc.
Owens gift would allow for all of this and more.
An added plus to this location would be families watching airplanes taking off and landing.
There could be a dog park, an idea suggested by the Director of Franklin County Animal Control, Taylor Bartholomew. Use of the dog park could enhance the monitoring of animal immunization.
General aviation is a powerful economic engine and contrary to what many would have you believe, our airport under Steve Merritt’s leadership now has a strong pulse. He is engaged and bringing hard dollars into the county.
If we want development, consider the investment that has already been made at this location.
The road that some now call the road to nowhere could be a link to a “state of the art park” and show case for Franklin County.
The distance from RDU is a matter of 10 minutes flying, if that? The old saying of ‘build it and they will come’ works, “if you build it.” Give pilots a reason to come; fuel, hanger fees, maintenance.
You know some day it just might happen that the 401 expansion gets built. That is the plan and the vision, is it not?
Here is something else to ask questions about: Would it make sense to leverage Owens’ gift with a matching $1 million grant?
Remember, we just lost our Tier III ranking and now are primed for more grant money. Why this has not been done defies understanding! They have had four years to do it?
At this point, I have to ask: “has anyone actually seen this money? Where is it? Has it be loaned or used for something else? Do we need an audit?”
Some may say the airport may not be the best location, well ok. With a grant we could do something similar in another part of the county.
It has been shared with me that the county manager has now been given this for action. Well, let me look into my crystal ball and predict what will drive this now. Just get it done, and get it over with!
It would not surprise me if decisions are made and contracts are signed late on a Friday afternoon, without anyone outside the secret circle getting notice. Just like with the burning of the records.
Sports fans, we have to get this one right. It is not every day someone is as generous as Owens. Let’s honor his memory and build the “V.E. Owens Fishing Hole and Park.”
There have been enough meetings that go nowhere. Final question: Whose judgment are you going to trust to get this done right?
Yes, I am asking hard questions. I could use a little help. Write letters to the local paper, pick up your phone, make some calls, and attend a meeting or two.
Soon I will be moving on. Someone needs to pick up the ball and run with some of this.
The Republican Path to Prosperity Barbecue Dinner will be 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 25. Peter Ferrara will be the speaker. Call Robert Church at 919-358-2016 for details or visit the website: newfrontierpac.com