Four years ago, it was once a grand design by a dedicated group of residents. It then became a dream for a young girl fighting the odds and illness. Now, plans for the first-ever community park a reality for the City of Maypearl.
The State of Texas issued a $75,000 grant to the city late last week to fund Wilemon Community Park.
Upon receiving notification of the approval, State Representative John Wray said, "I am pleased that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission recognized what a worthy project Wilemon Community Park is, and what an asset it will be to the residents of Maypearl. I extend my sincere congratulations to the City of Maypearl and the many community leaders who have worked to make this project a reality."
The idea of Wilemon Community Park has been in the works for the past four years and over time the organization, Friends of Maypearl, has hosted over 30 events. Those gatherings have raised more than $90,000 to preserve and enhance the quality of small-town living.
“There’s no central location downtown or central community draw to it...But this isn’t just a park," explained Stephen Daniel, a parks committee member. "It’s a place for the community to come together and plus, it’s a benefit to all the businesses downtown because it’s going to draw people in. It’s a win-win for everybody."
The park development committee formed from the Friends of Maypearl in 2016. The group established after the Wilemon family gifted the three-plus acres of land to the City of Maypearl, explicitly to build a community park.
The committee is comprised of Matt Young, director of parks and recreation in Mansfield; Larry Burns, president of Cowboy Bank of Texas in Maypearl; Stephen Daniel, an attorney with Clay Jenkin & Associates; Jean Moreau, a retired business development manager; and Jane Wilemon, co-owner of Lone Star Ranch in Maypearl.
Over the past 100 years, the land has been used to store thousands of bales of cotton during each cotton gin season.
The community park is located behind Busy Bee, directly across from Maypearl City Hall and the police station.
Burns said the groundbreaking would take place in January 2019. The park will be constructed in three phases. Committee members estimated the park would be completed as early as six years.
Phase one will include a pavilion, playground, walking/jogging trail lined with exercise stations, barbecue and picnic areas, a half-court basketball area, and a free library exchange.
The committee has planned for more amenities including a gazebo, tennis courts, a restroom building and a concession stand, as well as, parking along three sides of the park.
There will be opportunities for all ages and occasions at The Wilemon Community Park. Jane Wilemon is a committee member who wants the primary focus of the park to be driven by health and education.
“One of the main focuses on the park for me is education. We will have activities for elderly as well as all ages. There will be classes, seminars, music. It’s going to be a multi-diversified park,” Jane elaborated.
The park will be the ideal location for concerts, family reunions, public movie nights, receptions, exercise and more.
“I even foresee someone getting married in this park,” Larry said.
“Our overall umbrella is community building to enhance the quality of life for people in and around Maypearl,” Jane said.
A DREAM FULFILLED
One young Maypearl resident influenced the committee after she raised over $3,000 in t-shirt sales to help fund the park. In a Daily Light article published September 2017, Bel Coonrod said that the city needs a park for “kids and parents” and to serve as a “gathering place for the community.”
In her mind, she wanted a place in Maypearl for "kids to do activities and families could still be there,” Bel’s mother Vicki Coonrod said. “There was a whole sense of community and something for everybody whether they wanted to walk their dog or have a picnic.”
The seven-year-old began her battle with cancer in May 2016, entering and exiting remission and dealing with other health complications. She was even nominated for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to have a city park built but it was late deemed to be a liability.
That didn’t stop Bel from leaving an impact in her community.
She designed and sold t-shirts to fund the park. The front of the shirt reads, “Home is where the heart is” and on the back was the acronym, “P.A.R.K.” which stands for People Are Raising Kindness.
“She’s definitely an inspiration,” Daniel said.
Bel passed away on Feb. 17, 2018, after her battle with cancer and a rare blood disease.
“Her body had been through so much it was tired,” Vicki explained. “She was very wise for her age, even though she was just seven. Bel was an old soul. Even when she was little in daycare, she would want to go in the baby room and help take care of them. She didn’t know a stranger. She didn’t ever shy away. She had childlike faith and love.”
The charismatic girl always put other people’s feelings into consideration and was selfless. She spent a great deal outside playing, hanging out with animals and in the garden picking flowers.
“She will be remembered in the park,” Daniel emphasized.
“And her spirit will be there for sure,” Jane added as she fought back the tears.
To contribute to the park, visit gofundme.com/maypearlpark
Related article: Cancer survivor, 6, works to aid park project in Maypearl
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450