HomeNewsFate of Pendleton King Park up for discussion

Fate of Pendleton King Park up for discussion

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Volunteers at a popular Augusta park were stunned to learn that Augusta Parks and Recreation Director Maurice McDowell has placed Pendleton King Park on a list of possible closure sites that was disseminated to Augusta commissioners.

Unlike most other city parks, Pendleton King Park is privately owned, is governed by a board of trustees, staffed by volunteers and is jointly maintained by the city.

Pendleton King Park is a 64-acre park in Augusta. Photo by Scott Hudson

Beverly Dorn, a volunteer with the Augusta Azalea Garden Club, says she was shocked when she found out that the city was considering closing the park.

“Three generations of my family have used the park. My friends and I made it our sanctuary during the COVID 19 quarantine,” Dorn said.

According to Dorn, her garden club raised $10,000 in private donations to build a new sidewalk leading to the Azalea Garden and volunteers do most of the work to keep all of the separate gardens maintained year round.

New pathway to the Azalea Garden funded by private donations. Staff photo by Scott Hudson

“Last March, my garden club worked with the Boys With a Future program of Good Neighbor Ministries in Harrisburg and the youth group of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Summerville on a month-long project at the Azalea Walk,” Dorn said.

District 8 Commissioner Brandon Garrett says there is more to the story, that it costs the city of Augusta over $250,000 a year to maintain the 64-acre property of which is about 50% trails and wetlands.

“We haven’t had an agreement with the trustees since 2015; we put in all the money, and they pay nothing. We have a designated work crew and equipment that maintains the property. Since when should the city be maintaining private property without a written agreement?” Garrett said.

District 10 Commissioner John Clarke says that he agrees that a written agreement needs to be in place, but he says that he can’t fathom how the city spends that amount of money a year to maintain two comfort stations, tennis courts and cut an acre or so of grass.

Wetlands at Pendleton King Park. Staff photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

“I agree that the trustees need to have an agreed upon partnership and that they should have some skin in the game, but I don’t believe it costs that much to cut the grass for six months out of the year. All I can say is that I have asked for a city wide audit, and this is one of the reasons,” Clarke said.

Rob Dennis, the current president of the Pendleton King Park Foundation, says his group has tried in good faith to work out an agreement with the city and even hired an attorney to come up with a contract that is amenable to both parties.

“We have submitted a contract that we thought the city was happy with, but then the attorney for Parks and Rec told us that we needed to assume all liability. We just can’t take out liability insurance for the city,” Dennis said.

The city of Augusta is already self-insured for any liabilities incurred on publicly owned or maintained land, according to former Augusta Commissioner Jerry Brigham.

According to Dennis, the city and the foundation have had an agreement with the city for 55 years with no problems and that the foundation does not charge the city for office space or the two storage sheds on site, all the city has to do is keep them maintained.

“I am so proud of our volunteers. Azalea Walk, Camellia Garden, the Blue Garden, the Hydrangea Garden and the Touch and Smell Garden are all meticulously maintained by master gardeners and volunteers and those gardens are a jewel right in the center of our city,” Dennis said.

Aside from the elaborate gardens, the park hosts the first 18-hole disc golf course built in the United States, two dog parks, two playgrounds and various gazebos which many couples use to take engagement photos, all at no charge to the public.

Lake Elizabeth at Pendleton King Park. Staff photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

Garrett says that he just wants to bring the foundation trustees to the table and Clarke agrees, but says there is a deeper problem at the heart of the matter.

“That park is not closing, that is not in the cards, but gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have a city audit to figure out how it costs us $259,000 a year to maintain a park that is half forested and maintained primarily by volunteers?” Clarke said.

Scott Hudson is the senior reporter for The Augusta Press. Reach him at [email protected] 

24 COMMENTS

  1. Someone may want it closed and the books burned so no one will know what happened to that money spent on upkeep. And there is a good chance records will not add up to that amount, if records can be found and a audit carried out. Just another one of those no one knows what is going on until demands are made and then it is so convoluted it never can be audited. We will want to know more on this so please dig deeper and don’t give up. Glad former Commissioner Jerry Brigham made his comments on the insurance. Now we know that has nothing to do with funding.

  2. I remember that ARC didn’t want to pay the one million dollar asking price to own the park when the lease expired. I can’t imagine how ARC comes up with a quarter million dollars to maintain this jewel. I would gladly maintain it for that price, doing a much better job than ARC. The time is past due for Mr. McDowell to be fired from his position. He arguably does not foster good relationships with willing partners, a skill that is essential to his position.

  3. If maintenance of the tennis courts is part of the $250k, then an audit is certainly warranted. The courts are unusable and in complete disrepair. The courts are the only eye sore at PK and need to be demolished. I’m a disc golfer and use the park regularly. The disc golf course is one of the more enjoyable courses in the CSRA, an area that is packed with great courses. It should be a shame to close PK as it is well used and offers a great place to recreate and relax. The camellias and azaleas are beautiful!

  4. Thank you Mr . Hudson, please keep us up to date on this story. The Augusta Area Master Gardeners have supported the park with the proceeds of their plant sale for the last 20 years (less 2 Covid years), the next one will be May 7 2022.

  5. I agree with District 10 Commissioner John Clarke and am dubious regarding the $250K per year the city claims it is spending to maintain the park. If the $250K is a real number most of it is going somewhere else at the end of the day.

  6. Can’t you just see some government wizard in New York City putting Central Park on a list of possible closures? Pendleton King Park is a jewel in the city’s crown and should be treated as such. They’ve let Golf and Gardens go through disgraceful neglect. Now they want to do the same to Pendleton King? Historic Cemeteries, River Walk, what’s next?

  7. I have absolutely no doubt that the $259,000 dollar figure is totally bogus. This appears to be more about the department head’s prejudices than anything else. PKP is far and away the most attractive park and garden in Augusta. I agree completely with Commissioner John Clark, we need a real audit for numerous reasons!

  8. My guess is of the $259k at least $200k is an allocation of self-insurance…PKP is probably Augusta’s premier public garden…. it has been a beloved treasure since Henry Barkley King donated it to honor his dead son in 1931 nearly 100 years ago…..”IN PERPETUITY!”

  9. District 8 Commissioner Brandon Garrett says there is more to the story…please tell us taxepayers what the rest of the story is. Then we can make an informed decision. The only half decent park we have is Diamond Park, but we have money to send a limo to Atlanta to pick up a stripper for the mayor so she can show Augusta women/girls how to move! Duh

  10. District 8 Commissioner Brandon Garrett says there is more to the story, that it costs the city of Augusta over $250,000 a year to maintain the 64-acre property of which is about 50% trails and wetlands.
    Now think about that statement.
    And here is how funds get missing…….Ah–hemm! I’ll leave it at that.

  11. Audit, audit, audit. I don’t believe that number, sounds like someone is cooking the books. Unfortunately Augusta fails to take care of infrastructure – Covid has been the excuse for the last two years but this has been going on for many, many years. None of the parks are routinely maintained, nor Riverwalk, much less downtown and parking pits. The current discussion of the Commons is another direct result of failure to maintain. Soon the baseball stadium at Olmstead will be another casualty. So sad for the citizens.

  12. Over $250,000 for annual upkeep of PKP – are you serious?! The specific garden areas are maintained & enhanced by garden clubs & other volunteers & wetlands & woods make up 1/2 of the park’s acreage. Where’s the money being spent? Augusta Parks & Rec must have some really good blowers…
    WE NEED AN AUDIT – there is definitely some “creative” bookkeeping going on here…
    ,

  13. Whatever commissioners district this they should donate their Covid million dollar payout for the park..if any of us ran our household the way the mayor runs his office we’d be either be getting a IRS audit or arrested for fraud and money laundering..it’s past time to shine a light on his shenanigans!!

  14. Seems it wasn’t that long ago that Richmond county was trying to sell portions of PK park to a developer and the city didn’t own the land. I wonder if this isn’t another attempt to screw the people of Augusta so developers etc can profit.

  15. Developers have dreamed of obtaining this property for years. And, as usual many figure; as corruption continues to increase, and the money is right, they may steal this beautiful property.

    Corruption doesn’t know the meaning of “IN PERPETUITY!” And, will find any way possible to rob the good Citizens of Augusta of this Gem.

    It seems to me it would be wise for the Park Trustee’s and concerned “good citizens” of Augusta to pursue a forensic audit of any maintenance and/or monies expended with relationship to Pendleton King Park in the past, and seek legal actions to enforce the “perpetuity” clause expressly conditioning the donation made nearly 100 years ago by the King family honoring a deceased son.

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