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Wednesday, 07 September 2016 14:27

Charters of Freedom dedication delayed

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Dedication of a new Charters of Freedom monument in Sylva originally planned for Sept. 17 — Constitution Day — is being pushed back to allow the county more time to plan the Freedom Park area to be constructed around the monuments.

“Let’s just work and when we get finished we can determine a date at which we want to have a ceremony and dedicate it,” said Jackson County Commission Chairman Brian McMahan during the Aug. 16 work session where the delay was originally discussed. 

Monuments of the Charters of Freedom — the collective name for the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights — are being funded through private donations, an effort organized by Morganton-based Foundation Forward. The group raised about $20,000 to install bronze versions of the documents, set in white-treated brick to match the nearby Jackson County Public Library, in the corner of Mark Watson Park across the driveway from the old rescue squad building. 

“This was a project we were all really excited about,” McMahan said. 

Foundation Forward broke ground on the monument installation in mid-August with the intention of finishing by Sept. 17. 

“The pushback’s no issue,” said Perry Snyder of Foundation Forward of the amended timeline. “It just gives us more breathing room.”

As it stands now, the monuments could be completed as early as the end of September, though Foundation Forward will pace itself according to the county’s timeline. 

While Foundation Forward raised the money for the monuments, the county is responsible for providing and preparing the site, and commissioners decided to plan a landscaped park area around the monuments. However, they have yet to finalize a site plan. 

At the Aug. 16 work session, commissioners saw an initial site design but wanted to discuss some changes to it. They contemplated installing five additional flagpoles to commemorate each branch of the military, in addition to the three flags already planned to represent the United States, North Carolina and Jackson County. They also discussed the merits of concrete walkways versus brick walkways and the feasibility of offering engraved memorial bricks as a fundraiser. 

Commissioners will likely have a chance to see the revised plans at their Sept. 13 work session. Once a plan is approved, more specific information as to budget and timeline will be available. 

Work at Freedom Park will likely continue even after the initial plan is carried out. When completed, the area will prove a location to host patriotic ceremonies on holidays like Veterans Day and Memorial Day, and that could necessitate the need for improved parking options. The existing parking area on that side of Mark Watson Park is in need of some maintenance. 

“It’s helter-skelter in there now,” said John Jeleniewski, Jackson’s land use administrator. “It’s old and lines are faded. If it went through a repaving there could be more parking.” 

Repaving would probably be too big a project for the current year’s budget, McMahan said, but that’s something commissioners could keep in mind as they dive into budget planning for 2017-18.

“We may not accomplish everything, but next year we can plan how we can accommodate more parking at Mark Watson,” he said. “That could be factored into next year’s budget.”

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