About 25 people gathered at Pendleton King Park to rally the community to save the park after it was announced this past week that one of its three trustees, Clarence Barinowski, is attempting to sell the property to a developer.
The meeting was organized by members of the nonprofit Pendleton King Park Foundation, a group that works with the Augusta Recreation and Parks Department to improve the park through volunteer hours and fundraising. The foundation has also established partnerships with companies like Starbucks, which helped restore the Franke Pavilion. The pavilion was named in memory of foundation member Billy Franke’s father.
“Because of our involvement, we’ve saved the taxpayers of Augusta no telling how much money,” Franke said.
The status of the park was thrown into chaos recently when Barinowki announced that he’d given a local housing developer a contract to buy the 64 acres ark for $1.2 million, stating that negotiations with the city over a lease had failed. The city has leased the park for $1 per year since 1958, and the arrangement ends Jan. 1.
Augusta officials say they are hopeful an agreement can be reached after a meeting Thursday with a representative of the trustees. City Adminstrator Janice Allen Jackson said Friday that a proposal could be ready Tuesday or by Nov. 28.
Henry B. King created a trust in 1923 establishing the public park for the city of Augusta in memory of his son, John Pendleton King. The Pendleton King Park Foundation, a separate entity, was created by the Augusta City Council in 1966 to oversee development and maintenance of the park and has looked after its flora and fauna for decades.
Foundation treasurer Kay Bowman said about 50 hours of volunteer work is done each week by master gardeners to maintain the park’s gardens.
Franke said the park is very sentimental to him and others in the community. He has frequented it since he was 8 and still visits even though he lives in Columbia County now.
“There’s a lot of people in this county that are very torn up right now,” he said. “It’s very devastating.”
Margaret Dunstan recalled visiting the dog park at Pendleton twice a day and enjoying it with her grandchildren. She said it would be “criminal” to lose the park.
“This is a treasure,” she said. “It’s for everyone.”
Representatives of the foundation are planning to speak at Tuesday night’s commission meeting at 4 p.m. in the Municipal Building, and encourage others to attend. They are asking that those in attendance wear green to show their support for the park. The group has organized an online petition seeking 5,000 signatures and plans to deliver it at the commission meeting. As of Saturday afternoon, more than 4,500 people had signed.
Additional details on the foundation’s efforts can be found at PendletonKingPark.com.