Graham — as a member of The Sylva Downtown Association and, later, town board — was instrumental in getting Bridge Park built. She likes what it’s done for the town.
“I love it,” she said. “Every time I drive by I say, ‘Oh, what a pretty park that is,’”
Graham’s not the only one who appreciates the park. Bridge Park has been named a finalist in a contest held by the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Organization. The Sylva park faces six other finalists in the Best Public Place category.
“A great public space brings people together and provides a sense of community,” explained Emily Beddingfield, chair of the organization’s awards program and a planner for the town of Clayton. “It provides a variety of activities and so draws in people from across the community — it could be a place where people play, exercise, watch a concert, or just relax.”
The planning organization accepted nominations for the public place contest and will decide the winner via an open online voting system. Beddingfield said that criteria for the contest required the parks to be outside and accommodate social interaction.
“There’s no one recipe that makes a great public place, but an assortment of features that turns a place into a gathering spot for the community,” Beddingfield said.
Bridge Park opened in 2008. It was a joint realization that sprung from both public a private organizations. Since its inception it has played host to events, concerts, farmers markets and relaxing afternoons.
“It’s a highly utilized space,” said Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson.
Graham, who is now the director of planning and development with the Southwestern Commission, likes to think the space has upped the ante for Sylva. And she sees the park as more than a pleasant place.
“I see well-designed public spaces as a big economic development tool. People want to live in a town that has more than buildings to go to work in, they want vibrant places,” Graham said. “People want to live places that are vibrant and have music and have places to play.”
The former town board member said she’s glad to see Bridge Park get some recognition in the North Carolina planning organization contest.
“I think it’s great,” Graham said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the town to show off its assets.”
In addition to the Bridge Park in Sylva, contest finalists include Charlotte’s Little Sugar Creek Greenway, Raleigh’s Pullen Park, Manteo’s Downtown Waterfront, Tarboro’s Town Common, Burnsville’s Town Square, and Jamestown’s Wrenn Miller Park.
Want to vote?
Sylva’s Bridge Park is a finalist in the N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Organization’s Best Public Place category. The online voting for the Best Public Place is currently under way and ends at 5 p.m. May 9. Votes may be cast by visiting www.nc-apa.org. The winning North Carolina park will be announced May 12.