Editorial: Salisbury’s central park set for opening

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 30, 2021

Would you rather have a $13 million downtown park primarily funded by private donations or a couple parking lots?

The answer should be obvious. Bell Tower Green will be a boost to the quality of life for people who live in Salisbury and Rowan County that outweighs any negatives from parking going away. It’ll host some of the community’s most popular events as well as yoga classes, Rowan Public Library workshops, concerts, wedding receptions, marriage proposals, senior portraits, church gatherings and any other community events people can dream up.

It’ll be a nice destination for work breaks by those who are close enough and other frequent visitors who are just looking for a place to relax.

The city will incur ongoing upkeep expenses, but the bulk of the price tag was taken care of by a multi-million-dollar campaign that relied on small and large donors.

A parking lot provides capacity for people to attend events, but enough parking remains in the downtown area for 99% of events (the Cheerwine Festival is an exception). Any city that plans the future of its downtown on parking capacity is one destined to lack vitality. If one of the parking lots in downtown needs to be transformed into a parking deck later, so be it, but that’s not a concern now.

Since the project started, it’s been easy to find skeptics about whether Bell Tower Green will become an eyesore. What about thieves and vandals? How about drug addicts and homeless people? Those are questions people seem more focused on than the beautiful park that Salisbury has been blessed with.

Sure, someone may shower in the water wall. A homeless person may fall asleep in the park. Someone may take chairs and tables that aren’t bolted down. People seem to be under the impression it’ll be a hot spot for overdoses. But everyone will be on camera. There are enough cameras aimed at the park to catch people picking their nose at just about any location in the city block. From teens eating at Go Burrito late at night to newspaper carriers early in the morning, there will be people in close proximity to the park at most hours, too.

The park’s fences are set to come down on Friday. The crowd of people who walk by or drive into town might rival what would have been present at a grand opening. It should be a celebratory moment.

The late Paul Fisher, who was the park’s chief fundraiser, said it best in an August 2020 opinion column published in the Post. He framed struggles many of us are going through now as a reason to be optimistic about the park’s opening:

Sometimes after watching the morning news, I feel like my tank is just empty even before my day has hardly begun. Throw in some health challenges I had this past year, and it has seemed harder than ever to get excited about the days ahead.

For those who know me, you know that I love this community, this county and this country as much as anybody, and it is not like me to ever doubt that we have brighter days ahead.

Which is why I thank God every day for the beam of sunshine that Salisbury’s new downtown park promises to us all. Bell Tower Green is just what our community needs to be able to come together for a brighter tomorrow.

This weekend, go visit Bell Tower Green Park. Bring a friend.