Front page history: Danville, Boyle fought over joint park plan 27 years ago

Published 7:24 pm Monday, July 8, 2019

A proposed regional park for Danville and Boyle County was a hotly debated issue between the fiscal court, city commission and recreation board 27 years ago.

On this day in 1992, three stories about the park were on The Advocate-Messenger’s front page. Members of the recreation board were frustrated that the public seemed to want the park, but weren’t letting their opinions be known to the court and commission. Both government bodies were trying to justify the $6.7 million price tag for the proposed park plan.

Just three days before, Boyle Fiscal Court voted unanimously to reject the regional park plan. But according to the story, the judge-executive and most of the six magistrates were divided over whether to pursue alternatives.

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“Our action Monday doesn’t mean the development of a park plan is dead. It means a specific plan has been rejected but the door is open to consider other plans that we can afford,” said Judge-Executive Mary C. Pendygraft.

Pendygraft wanted to continue working with the city to come up with a plan for a regional park. But Magistrate Morris Martin said he believed the city was trying to come up with a plan that suited mainly city residents and wanted the county to pay for it with an increase in the county payroll tax from 45-hundredths of a cent to 80-hundredths of a cent.

“They’re trying to do a little dominating,” Martin said at the time. Then he added that he saw the regional park plan as “the first step toward merged government.”

Pendygraft said most members of the court were in favor of having a large park to provide a wide number of activities for the public. However, she felt that the Sigwald property on Perryville Road, which had been offered for sale for the park, was too expensive. She said the court should keep the Sigwald property in mind, but it should also continue looking at other sites and ask the recreation board to draft a plan that was smaller in scale and price.

“Most people I’ve talked with are overwhelmingly against the $6.7 million regional park plan, but most favored certain elements of it. The most popular element is a public pool,” Pendygraft said at the time.

However, Magistrate J.P. Connor said he didn’t think the public wanted a pool at all, and certainly didn’t want higher taxes to pay for it.

Martin also suggested that it may be more affordable for local government to contract with a private company to handle recreation as it does with garbage disposal, or even to encourage a private firm to develop and run a program independent of local government.

In a second story, the recreation board urged the public to make their feelings be known about the proposed park. “If people support it they should ring the phones off the hook,” said board president Beverly Sleet.

The recreation board held a special meeting called to discuss fiscal court’s decision to reject its park proposal. Members urged all park supporters to attend the fiscal court and city commission meetings the following week.

“The city needs to address the situation and see where we need to go and how we need to handle it,” said Danville Mayor John W.D. Bowling. He and board members objected to fiscal court attributing the plan to the Danville city government, the story stated. “The proposal came from county and city recreation board without any input from city government,” Bowling said.

Recreation board member William Ruth said the fiscal court decision “stopped any signs of progress that might have been found in this county.”

Because the recreation board had asked the public to make their opinions known to their local representatives, a list of the Boyle County Fiscal Court magistrates, judge-executive, mayor and city commission members, along with their home phone numbers was published.

The Sigwald property was eventually purchased and turned into what is today Millennium Park, a joint city-county park with walking trails, baseball and softball complexes, a skate park, basketball courts, playgrounds, soccer fields, volleyball courts and a pond that offers fishing.