The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 23, 2013

Clark Park lights rumor quashed

The Daily Southerner

TARBORO — During Monday night's Tarboro Town Council meeting, electric department director Buddy Harrison quashed the long-standing rumor that Tarboro officials removed lights from the Clark Park ball field and placed them on the high school football field more than a decade ago.

Harrison, who was either a crew chief or repairman during that time, said the lights were removed because the old wooden poles were in "bad shape" and the lights were not up to standards for softball and baseball games.

"We took them down, but we did not put any new lights up," Harrison said during a telephone interview. "It's just a rumor. That just didn't happen."

Councilman Rick Page was the electric department director during that era and said during a telephone interview that it would cost the town over $100,000 to replace the lights and poles. At that time, a decision was made not to replace the lights because the fields were not utilized."

The two fields at Clark Park were used heavily in the 1980's and mid-1990's when the town's recreation department operated very popular Open League, Church League and Industrial League softball programs for men and women. Perhaps the most notable league was the industrial. Black & Decker, Dixie Yarn, Ansell Edmont, and Masonite were some of the industries that fielded competitive teams that drew crowds. One by one, those industries closed their doors for various reason. The closings weakened Tarboro's  economy as well as shut down the softball leagues.

"Back then, softball was thriving in Tarboro," said Jarvis Pettaway, the former director for Tarboro Parks and Recreation Department. We had games at Clark Park at least two times a week.

"When the plants started closing, we lost players. Without players, the league could not survive."

Another factor in the park not being utilized is perhaps the million dollar complex (Indian Lake) that was completed in 2000. The state-of-the-art facility has one baseball field, four softball fields and a soccer field. Some of the sporting events were moved there. The town also uses two fields at Sunset Park.

"There was not too much of a need for Clark Park softball fields after the complex was built," Pettaway said. "During Clark Park's heyday, it was one of the most utilized parks in the town," Pettaway recalled. "On the weekend, traveling community teams used to play out there. After some of the games, a DJ would play music. It was thriving back in the day."

The question concerning the lights was raised by Councilwoman Deborah Jordan. Jordan is one of several citizens who have voiced their opinion concerning the usage of Clark Park and M.A. Ray Center. The two units are located together. At least one community group forum has been held to discuss methods of getting more people to use the sporting areas.

"We're working on plans to attract more people at Clark Park," saidTarboro Parks and Recreation Director Cheryl Gay. "There are some good things around the corner."