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How Gibson Park is improving lives in Waverly

Posted at 7:39 AM, Jun 15, 2023

WAVERLY, Va. -- For a small town, Waverly has one of the nicest parks you'll find in Virginia — Gibson Park.

Town leaders have used the money raised during an annual 5K run to invest in a place all their citizens can enjoy, and they've quickly learned the park is a place used by people of all ages.

The park is truly astounding for those seeing it for the first time.

“The first time I saw this, several months ago, I was very surprised," Beverly Macy said.

It is slowly becoming a Mecca for grandparents to bring their grandchildren and other senior citizens.

“Small towns usually don’t have a lot to offer and this is something that the town has established to offer their citizens," Waverly resident Anne Tewell said.

The park has seen a transformation over the past few years.

“Five years ago, it was just playground equipment and nothing else around it," Wavery Mayor Angela McPhaul said.

With little to do, little time was spent at the park.

“You’d come here about 20 minutes. We’re ready to go because they’re done," resident Gary Ballance said.

But investments in infrastructure have changed that.

"It’s much better now," Ballance's 10-year-old granddaughter Jennifer said. "You have more things you can do now. Your parents can now stay in the cold shade and they’ll want to stay longer."

With the expansion comes a wide-open space "perfect to fly kites," she added.

The park began its transformation when town leaders organized the 5K.

“We raised about $6,000 and we started doing landscaping around the park," Mayor McPhaul said.

Money from the 5K the next year was used to start a community garden at the park.

“It's something nice to do, to try to help the elderly people," Waverly Public Works Supervisor Howard Jones said about the community garden. "You can’t feed the whole world, but we can try to reach out and give to the elderly people."

The town also used some federal COVID infrastructure money to install grilling stations at the park.

"You can come out here and cook your own food now, that’s new too," Ballance said. 

There is new LED lighting installed as well as a paved walking path. Another addition is colorful coverings over the playground equipment.

A move Jennifer Ballance believed was money well spent.

“Now I think the tests were good because your body temperature is only supposed to be 98 degrees’, that’s the limit for your body, so if your body gets too hot, from heat stroke, you could die from that," she said.

One of the investments included refurbishing the tennis courts and converting several others into Pickle Ball Courts.

“I like the concept of having families out here and the kids have a place to play, there’s a place to cook out, the Pickle Ball Court, you can still play tennis, so you can have a lot of family activities and a lot of activities with your friends," fan of the park Anne Tewell said.

People from outside Waverly, like Beverly Mace, are also finding Gibson Park is the place to go 

“It’s well used by numerous locals as well as people like me and friends from Surry," she said. "We don’t have anything like this available to us in Surry."

And that includes the bathrooms.

“The bathrooms? If I had to rate that, 99.9, because nothing's perfect," young Jennifer said.

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