A new kiosk at Knightdale Station Park is more to former Mayor Billy Wilder than just a wooden frame mounted on posts.
Wilder built the marker that stands near the playground with a mind for preserving some of the town’s history. It features an infographic town staff helped produce for the Wilder Nursery Trail, giving people background on the 70-plus acres Wilder’s family used as a farm and nursery before he sold the land to the town in 2010 for the park.
“One of the main things I was interested in is the history of the land itself,” Wilder said. “Most people go to a park and think, ‘This must have been a park forever.’ But there’s history on this land dating back to the King of England.”
The land there, like in most of the town, was granted by royalty for Midway Plantation. Midway sold off some of the land after the Civil War, and Wilder said the land has been sold about three times since.
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Wilder’s father farmed the front 40 acres of the property for the first time in 1944, starting on D-Day.
“When we planted that first crop of tobacco it was way late in the season, but it was 101 degrees that day,” Wilder recalled.
The poster framed in the kiosk includes a picture from Wilder’s youth, when his family raised purebred beef cattle on the site.
Wilder opened a nursery on the land in 1960 and it remained in operation until he sold the land to the town.
The now-dedicated trail throughout the park is mostly paved and runs along the roads formerly used for the nursery. Wilder intends for there to be signs educating people on various grasses and plants to be positioned along the trail.
Personal ties to the land aside, Wilder says its history is interesting to him, “because I’m old.” The 82-year-old hopes Knightdale’s youth, specifically, will take an interest in the significant piece of the town’s past.
“Really, young people don’t have any idea land is not always like it has been,” he said. “I thought that would be a good informational addition for homeowners and their kids.”