Community invited to MLK Dream Park groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 16, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

A groundbreaking for the new Martin Luther King Dream Park will take place Saturday at noon. It will be located at 910 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave.

Pastor Julius Koonce, head organizer of the initiative and pastor of Christ Transformation Center, hopes to convert seven acres of land into a recreational area.

The park will include a Dream Trail, Field of Dreams, Dream Garden and Dream Center.

Koonce said the church bought the land from the Wallace family before he gained leadership over the church. The church originally planned to build some kind of family enrichment center on the land, but the plans never materialized.

Although the land has seven acres of space, the church can only build on 1.5 acres because the rest is in a flood zone.

Koonce brainstormed with Russel Smyre, pastor of the Father’s House of Glory, and came up with the idea for the park and center.

The Dream Center will be on the 1.5-acre piece of the land, and the rest of the space will be converted into a recreational park and garden.

Koonce said the park will create a sense of hope and value in people’s lives, which will help fulfill Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.

“Dr. King’s life revolved around helping people and we have purposed to do the same with the MLK Dream Park,” Koonce said in a press release.

Koonce said the park will include walking trails, tennis courts and a soccer field.

There will also be a garden that will provide healthy foods to the surrounding community. Koonce hopes to work with local farmers and schools to provide resources.

Koonce said he would like the community to have some place they can get healthy food at a low cost, if not free.

At the Dream Center, individuals will be able to take GED, continuing education, substance abuse, health education and disease prevention classes. The community will also be able to hold gatherings at the center.

Koonce said the park and center will be a resource to an underserved community.

“Anything that we can provide to the community as a resource we want to give to the community,” he said.

The African American community will be able to find a sense of value at the park and it may also be able to help close schisms in the community, Koonce said.

“It’s a centralized location where it draws people of all races and you never know who you’re going to meet,” he said.

Koonce said the next steps will be to speak with a landscaper and architect to plan and lay out what the park should look like. He will also generate funds by holding fundraisers and asking for donations. Koonce wants to document the progress of the park to create a documentary.

The park is a collaborative effort involving local businesses and faith-based organizations.

Koonce said the park and center will be a good thing for the local community and the state as a whole.

“I think it can be a beacon of light for that community,” he said.

Guests of the groundbreaking can park at the Jaycee Optimist Sports Complex. There will be volunteers directing traffic and guiding attendees to the location.

For more information or to get involved with the MLK Dream Park, contact Julius Koonce at 336-587-5764.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.