New Castle Park groundbreaking.jpg

City and county dignitaries joined residents of the New Castle community in breaking ground for a new park on Monday. Among the officials are Alfonza Holt of the Jefferson County Office of Community and Economic Development, far left; Parks and Recreation Director Stan Hogeland, second from left; Councilman Alvin Currington (and his son), fourth from left; Shirley Higdon, the New Castle Resident who spearheaded the effort to build the park, fifth from left; Mayor Othell Phillips, fifth from right; and Celeste Lachenmeyer, president of ESA Engineering.

It was a long time coming, but Shirley Godwin is finally seeing the fruits of her diligence.

Godwin and her Cypress Street neighbor, Beatrice Johnson, have lobbied the city of Gardendale for a park to be built in the New Castle ever since the community was annexed into the city during the administration of former mayor William Noble. Godwin was a frequent sight at city council meetings, wanting to know when they would get their park.

On Monday, she and several city leaders took the first step in making the dream a reality, as they took golden shovels in hand to break ground for the new park.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Godwin said. “We’ve been waiting quite a few years for this, about eight or nine.”

The facility will be located on New Castle Road, near the northernmost of its two intersections with Mulberry Road. It’s little more than wooded land at the moment, lying in a strip between the road and CSX Transportation’s former Louisville and Nashville Railroad main line going north to Decatur.

“We’ve been wanting to build this park for a while,” Mayor Othell Phillips said. “We had to find land, but there wasn’t much for sale close to the main road. We bought this about two years ago. It took a little while for this to go through the bid process, and there were a couple of snags because the original low bidder backed out and we had to do it again.”

Construction equipment will start to transform the land into a park with a playground and a picnic pavilion on July 9. The project is scheduled to take 90 days to complete, according to Parks and Recreation Director Stan Hogeland.

Construction of the park was made possible through a $200,000 federal community development block grant secured through the Jefferson County Office of Community and Economic Development.

Godwin estimated there are about 70 children in the neighborhood who will be able to use the new park.

Geraldine Harris, another neighborhood resident, thinks the children will put the park to good use.

“Right now, their playground is my yard, at least for Willow Street,” she said.

[NOTE: Updated at 4:05 p.m. to correct Godwin's name.]

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