Councilman Jack Smith overlooked the southeastern Cary park that bears his name for the first time.
It was about a week before it officially opened, and about a dozen children giggled and squealed as they ran through the fountain-like water features of the town’s first sprayground.
“I’m a kid at heart,” said Smith, ready to dive in. “I would probably be the first to go under the sprayground.”
The 50-acre park is named for Smith, who is Cary’s longest-serving council member. He represents council district C, which stretches from Cary Towne Boulevard in the north to Ten-Ten Road in the south and includes the new park at 9725 Penny Road.
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The $4.5 million park features a large children’s play area, a dog park, a climbing boulder, a picnic shelter, greenway trails and the sprayground, which is operational from mid-May through mid-September.
“It’s great. I mean the whole focus is on kids,” he said.
He added that he loves that the park is also dog-friendly with a “lot of space to walk around and just enjoy your day.”
While the park opened Aug. 24, the Town of Cary will hold a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony at the park Saturday, Sept. 10, at 10 a.m. Dog- and children-friendly events, including a fun run and fitness challenge course for kids, will follow at 11 a.m.
About a week before the dedication, Smith recalled feeling humbled and speechless when fellow council members first suggested naming the park after him for his commitment to the town. He first ran for office in 1988 and is serving his seventh term.
He said he believes he will run again and wants to continue to ensure that as Cary grows, his district will retain its “small-town feel.”
“I want to be remembered as the neighborhood guy that looked after people and kept Cary in that same condition as when people moved here,” he said.
Past and future
The land where Jack Smith Park now sits used to be known as the Bartley family farm. The Bartleys bought the land in the 1950s and grew produce until the town bought it in 2000.
For this reason, the sprayground and other surrounding structures have “kind of a farm theme because of the Bartleys use of the land,” said Doug McRainey, the town’s park, recreation and cultural resources director.
Two public art features that will be on the site – whirligigs and Suffolk sheep – also drew inspiration from the farm’s history.
The late Vollis Simpson from Lucama, near Wilson, created the three whirligigs that are made from cast-off machine parts and farm equipment. William Moore from Pittsboro created nine Suffolk sheep – a breed that used to graze on the fields of the farm.
A few days before Smith’s first visit, Cary residents, including Allison Smaldone and her four children, visited the park and the sprayground for the first time.
“It’s a nice little spot to cool off before the end of the summer,” she said.
The Jack Smith Park master plan show there could be additional features in the future, including a gazebo/boardwalk, a community center with a cultural arts center and gymnasium, an orchard, basketball courts and a garden maze. But there are no additional phases in the works at this time, according to town staff.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon
Want to go?
What: Jack Smith Park ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony
When: 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10
Where: Jack Smith Park, 9725 Penny Road, Raleigh. There will be free shuttle buses from Oak Grove Elementary School starting at 9:30 a.m.
The Town of Cary also recently opened Carpenter Park, at 4420 Louis Stephens Road in western Cary. The $3 million, 16-acre park features the town’s second pickleball courts, a children’s play area, basketball court, trails and a central pond.
The park also is home to a memorial for American Eagle flights 3378 and 3379 that crashed in Cary in 1988 and 1994, respectively. The park is about a mile from where Flight 3379 crashed. Five trees in the center of the memorial represent the plane’s survivors while the trees at the back of the memorial are for the 27 people who died in both crashes. The memorial was dedicated in May. Cary is planning an official park dedication for spring 2017.