Foundation plans capital campaign for Belhaven Park

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Efforts to transform Belhaven Park from a simple green space into a major gathering place in the community are about to come full-circle, with a capital campaign expected to get under way in January to fund the final round of improvements.

In January, the Greater Belhaven Foundation (GBF) hopes to kick off a campaign to raise funds to construct a new, permanent event stage at the park on Poplar Street.

The stage is the final phase of improvements that began at the park more than a decade ago.

“When we did our original master plan, the stage was included,” said GBF Executive Director Casey Creasy. “The neighborhood really does need a stage where we can expand the performances we do have and give our neighbors more opportunities to get out and meet one another.”

Creasey hopes to raise around $70,000, which will fund the stage’s construction and pay for maintenance.

She didn’t know how long it would take to raise the money but said the foundation had already received a major donation from a local business. Lindsay was the foundation’s longtime executive director who stepped down to run for Jackson City Council. 

“We started (a campaign) previously when Virgi Lindsay was still here, but it was halted because issues at Laurel Street Park took precedent,” Creasey said. “We already had a huge donor … who had given us the seed money.”

Previous improvements at the park were overseen by the now Ward Seven councilwoman.

The stage was designed by Belhaven board member Rob Farr, a principle with Cooke Douglass Farr and Lemons. It will replace the current platform stage currently located at the city-owned site.

“The one we’re looking at would be a permanent structure, so we can attach a movie screen to it, so bands can attach speakers to it,” Creasey said. “We’re hoping it will have a very long lifespan.”

Renderings were displayed at Greater Belhaven’s annual party. The structure includes five columns and a roof resembling a pergola.

Over the years, Belhaven residents and businesses have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the park. In 2007, $40,000 was spent to purchase a strip of land from a nearby property owner to expand the park’s footprint. That same year, one Belhaven couple donated a small parcel of land on Gillespie Street for the park.

Later, new lighting, new fencing, brick columns, a brick walkway and seating were added.

Today, the park is home to the Being Belhaven Art Series, which included Shakespeare in the Park on Mothers’ Day weekend, Pumpkins in the Park in October, a puppet show and two movie nights, Creasey said.