Small parcel carries big memories, will add to parcel for Yadkin River Park

Published 12:01 am Thursday, February 16, 2023

SPENCER — Sherrill Hedrick invested in the purchase of a small parcel of land beside the former N.C. Finishing Co. plant by the Yadkin River in the hopes of preserving a piece of her own history, remembering days when she would cross the Wil-Cox Bridge to deliver dinner to her father, who worked in the plant.

On Tuesday night, Hedrick and Nick Bishop, both members of the Yadkin Historical Museum Foundation, were on hand when the town’s Board of Aldermen accepted the donation of that small 2.88-acre parcel to Spencer for use in the Yadkin River Trailhead Park project.

“My brother’s house used to sit right on the corner there, and I can still see it,” said Hedrick. “I just want to have some way of recognizing the history of the land, of the church there and the little village where the people that worked in the plant lived.”

Phase one of the park project, on which Spencer broke ground in October, is on track to be complete this spring, despite a few delays due to weather and construction supplies, and it is intended to link with the Davidson County Yadkin River Park on the other side of the bridge. The Davidson side is farther along in development, but Spencer hopes to catch up.

“This is not going to be a rest area on I-85,” Ronnie Smith has said previously. Smith is the founder of Friends of Rowan, a non-profit group that has been instrumental in both helping with funding for the project and encouraging community support. “The dream is to make it one of the premier parks in the state.”

The park, on both sides of the Wil-Cox Bridge, will be a nexus of several trail systems throughout the Piedmont, including the Piedmont Legacy Trail and the Mountain to Sea Trail.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Spencer Town Planner Steve Blount called for the board to recognize the donation during his report to the board, since the item was approved on the board’s consent calendar, meaning it would not normally receive comment.

The property where the former Color-Tex plant — N.C. Finishing Co. — and the village where its workers once lived is still a question mark for the park, but this small parcel brings the town one step closer.

Nick Bishop, who spoke on behalf of the foundation, said there are no restrictions on what the town does with the property other than it must be included in the park.

“Our hope is that they will preserve a historic site, and if possible, put some sort of signage or description on the site so it is historically educational,” he said Tuesday.

Initially the group had hoped to one day build a museum that would touch on the site’s importance, not only in North Carolina but in U.S. history. When they began to realize that may never come to fruition, they began to explore giving the property to the town for use, with the one caveat that it retain a historical component.

“Our hope had been to have a museum that covered the pre-Columbian era, the Spanish exploration, colonization, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the N.C. highway system and the building of the finishing plant and its importance in WWII,” said Bishop. “But that would have been a huge undertaking, and we eventually realized the funding wasn’t going to happen. The little village that was up on the hill and was where people who lived in the plant worked has already been lost, because once the plant closed, they moved on. They had to have jobs and it wasn’t sustainable to stay. But the history is still there and we are hoping we can make sure people are educated about the past and its importance.”

“We are just very grateful that you decided to share this property with us and the park,” said Mayor Jonathan Williams.