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Slowly but surely, park is cranking up

Posted: March 20, 2012 - 11:00pm

When I think of something needing to slowly build momentum, I envision Civil Defense workers winding up World War II air-ride sirens.

That seems to be the case with the new Evans Towne Center Park. After just a couple of turns at the crank, it’s finally starting to get wound up.

The park and its Lady Antebellum Pavilion saw its first big productions last October, with a warm-up concert followed by the blowout inaugural show by its namesake.

Then, pretty much nothing. Sure, it was winter, and yes, it was also great for the county’s annual Christmas tree lighting. But most of the time the pavilion sat empty; the county even installed rails to keep vandals and skatepunks off the vacant stage.

Even so, the rest of the park has been wildly popular. The weather has to be awful to keep people away, and lately the weather around here has been jaw-droppingly great – so the park routinely has more visitors in a day than the old field on which it is built would have in a month.

Still, the stage is the centerpiece, and it hasn’t been occupied much since the big opening. The good news is that’s changing.

Already the park has played host to an impromptu beer festival of sorts, and this weekend will be the site of the county’s RV and boat show. The pavilion soon will feature a couple of concerts with respectably big acts, including Josh Kelley, for whom the stage itself is named. His brother, Charles, is part of Lady Antebellum, for whom the pavilion is named.

In addition, Papa Joe’s Banjo-B-Que is moving to the park from its previous location in North Augusta, which is a tremendous boost for Columbia County. A music series and other festivals are coming, as is a big Mustang car show.

It also helps that the county is contracting with ETix to make it easier to buy tickets for performances at the park. Striking a deal with an entertainment management company still would be a good move, too.

All in all, the only downside to the park seems to be its popularity. The top complaint from patrons is that the heavily used dog park just smells bad, especially after it rains. They’re working on it.

Incidentally, one frequent request for the park is for more benches, especially around the much-used playground. The county hopes to provide those through private sponsorships at a cost of around $1,300 each, which includes engraving the sponsor’s name on the bench. Tree-planting sponsorships are available, too.

That’s a lot of great news. Amidst it all, I still wish the county would consider naming the park after Ryan Clark, the Lakeside High graduate who was the first person killed in the Virginia Tech shootings. He died a hero, trying to rescue another student being threatened by the killer, and deserves more local recognition.

Let commissioners know if you agree. All it needs is a little momentum to get it cranked up.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/

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Comments (7)


Park Names

Good points Barry - with 2 boys my family is at the park at least 3 days every week either playing sports or enjoying the playground.
Sometimes a destination can take on its own identity. I think if you ask most people that visit the park what it's name is, you will get an overwhelming response "Lady A Park" - which is understandable. Not many people refer to the space as Evans Towne Center Park.
I like the idea of naming the park after Mr. Clark - but once again I believe that the name would be overshadowed by "Lady A Park" and ultimately not serve its intended purpose of paying respect to Mr. Clark's heroisim. Here's an idea - how about naming a part of the park after Mr. Clark - The Ryan Clark Fountain - playground - etc. With a palque describing Mr. Clark and his heroism, generations to come will be able to read about his actions while they enjoy the amenities of the park.

Butch Holley
Columbia County Commission District 3


Ryan Clark

I've always been in favor of naming it after Ryan Clark, but JwbHolley makes a good point. There are too many names there now with the stage and amphitheater. Here's another suggestion. What about the new park and stadium for Lakeside the BOE and county are building together? Something needs to be named after Ryan. He was a true hero with his deeds recognized by the Va Tech band coming here twice to perform in his memory.

Barry Paschal

That is a FANTASTIC idea

That is a FANTASTIC idea, RM. To my knowledge, none of the current LHS facilities moving to that park carry a name (other than "Panther Stadium"), so the park name would seem to be wide open. I'll push the heck out of that.


Best to make this...

...your idea. There's not a politician in Columbia or Richmond counties that would do something I suggest. Heh.

Barry Paschal

You'll get credit

A good idea is a good idea, no matter what the source.

Ryan Clark's mother called this morning, after having seen this conversation, and gave her blessing. I've since contacted the school board and county commission to let them know I'm formally making the request.

Again, great idea. Thank you.



It's not about anyone pointing out this fact that Ryan should be honored. It was obvious from the beginning when the news broke of the Va Tech tragedy that Ryan Clark was the one who fought back. He was a hero who paid with his life trying to save others.

Barry Paschal


Once the ball is rolling and the name (hopefully) becomes official, none of that will matter. Preserving the memory will be the important part.