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Bathrooms finally coming to Obama-King Park

Obama-King Park has become a community  gathering place. Cory Vaillancourt photo Obama-King Park has become a community gathering place. Cory Vaillancourt photo

After years of delay, the tiny half-acre park off Pigeon Street in the heart of Waynesville’s Black community should soon see the long talked-about bathrooms the park so desperately needs. 


“It’s been a long time coming,” said Council Member Julia Freeman. “I’m thankful we’re finally moving forward on this project.” 

Back in 2017, Haywood County government conveyed to the Town of Waynesville three lots on Craven Street, one of which was home to a former church that had fallen into disrepair. The idea was to create a small park there, developed over the course of five years.

Then-chief Bill Hollingshed was supportive of the plan for the parcels, saying the area had become a consistent problem for his officers.

Gavin Brown, mayor of Waynesville at the time, defended keeping the parcels off the tax rolls in perpetuity, calling it “addition by subtraction” — adding to the town’s overall character despite subtracting a relatively small amount of property tax revenue from the town’s future funding stream.

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But a lot’s happened since then — namely uncertainty over the future due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, its resulting inflationary pressures and supply chain hang-ups that continue to affect the construction industry.

In 2020, the town OK’d the park’s name, Obama-King Park. Since then, the half-acre park has taken shape, with a picnic shelter over a concrete pad, a playground, horse shoe pits and grills popping up on the half-acre site. Now, the park serves as a community gathering place ideal for hosting birthday parties, family reunions and holiday celebrations, except for one thing — there’s nowhere to “go.”

On Sept. 26, Town Council approved the construction bid, but that wasn’t exactly a smooth process either.

The 2023 budget appropriated $80,000 for construction of a family restroom, but after public input the town decided to redesign it to instead feature separate bathrooms for men and women.

The redesigned facility was sent out for bid, but only received one bid. The project was then rebid, but the town didn’t receive any additional bids.

Maggie Valley-based contractor Clint L. Watkins was awarded the $119,130 contract. His bid details $3,000 for site prep, $12,000 for the foundation and $23,000 for decorative stonework, among other items.

Town Manager Rob Hites asked Council to add $20,000 to the contractor’s total, bringing the total project cost to just under $140,000. The additional appropriation was made to handle change orders and to purchase the material to connect water and sewer lines to the facility.

The additional funds will come from the town’s ARP stash; the American Rescue Plan, signed by President Joe Biden in March 2021, guaranteed unprecedented funding inflows to every municipality in the United States.

Due to the small size and odd shape of the park, the footprint of the bathrooms had also been a concern, but town officials seem to have solved that issue as well.

“We’re going to put it on the back of the site, where the hill is the highest,” Hites said. 

The facility falls under the purview of the town’s Parks and Recreation Department, which will be responsible for its upkeep. Currently, the town has two large community parks, five smaller neighborhood parks and an emerging greenway system.

Watkins’ bid says he expects the total project term to be 90 days, meaning the bathrooms could be in use as early as this year.

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