News-Star: Opinion

Parks, recreation set Clayton apart

Recently, this newspaper commented on what separates Clayton from Wilson’s Mills. The former, we observed, is very much a full-service town and wants to be so. The latter, we argued, hasn’t decided whether it wants to be a one-stop shop.

At his swearing-in ceremony earlier this month, Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod reiterated what we wrote a few weeks back. “We’re going to continue to maintain a high level of service for our citizens,” the mayor said after taking the oath of office for a fourth time. “That’s our largest drawing – quality services in a timely, affordable fashion.”

Whether Clayton services are affordable is in the eyes of the beholder – or, more precisely, in pocketbook of the person paying the bills. But no one could argue convincingly that Clayton doesn’t offer high-quality services.

And so that is Clayton’s selling point – that it offers every service a town resident could want and does so affordably. That is how Clayton aims to distinguish itself from other Johnston towns and communities hoping to attract families and employers.

Truth be told, I don’t expect or demand all that much from the town I live in. I expect water to flow when I turn on the tap, the toilet to flush when I hit the lever, the garbage to disappear once a week from the container I place curbside and the police to come when called.

Clayton provides all of those services, and it does so admirably, but so does my hometown of Four Oaks, and it does do for considerably less than Clayton does. I don’t know that anyone moving from Four Oaks to Clayton would notice a considerable difference in basic services.

The operative word there is “basic.” Where Clayton continues to distinguish itself is in parks and recreation. My hometown has no parks and recreation department per se. Its children and adults mostly play sports in leagues run by community groups and churches and on fields owned by the schools and community groups.

Clayton, on the other hand, owns a host of parks, ball fields and greenways, and many more are on the way. These amenities – because that’s what they are, amenities – attract people of all ages and all levels of activity, from children running up and down soccer fields to older folks taking a leisurely stroll on a walking trail.

That to me is what separates Clayton from other Johnston towns. Yes, compared to its closest neighbors, Archer Lodge and Wilson’s Mills, Clayton is a full-service town, but no more than, say, Smithfield, Selma and Benson.

But no one rivals Clayton in parks and recreation, especially given what’s in the parks pipeline. As he touts Clayton’s many selling points, Mayor McLeod might want to put parks and recreation atop the list.

Scott Bolejack: 919-836-5747, @ScottBolejack