Large donation fully funds Canton playground

Ken Wilson Ken Wilson

A longtime community advocate has made a substantial financial donation to the Town of Canton that will help speed the completion of its all-abilities playground at Recreation Park. 

“I cannot think of two better people better to name that playground for than Ken and Debbie Wilson,” said Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers during a March 14 meeting of the town’s governing board.

Smathers had just finished reading a letter from Debbie Wilson, who enclosed a $110,000 check in memory of her late husband Ken, who passed away on in August of last year.

The Wilsons, who Smathers called “titans” of the business and philanthropic community, purchased Canton’s Ford dealership in 1980, renaming it Ken Wilson Ford. Wilson also built and developed several other well-known commercial buildings in the area.

Even though Canton is mostly known across the state for high school football and its blue-collar identity, Smathers said seeing “Ken Wilson Ford” stickers affixed to vehicles on the Outer Banks helped him realize how much the Wilsons had put Canton and Haywood County on the map.

The donation wasn’t nearly the first made by the Wilsons. Alderman Tim Shepard said that without them, the Pisgah High School baseball team that he helps coach wouldn’t have lights for their field. Shepard thinks they cost around $150,000 at the time.

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The playground donation means the $700,000 project is now fully funded. Smathers said he wants to see the playground open as soon as possible.

— Cory Vaillancourt, Politics Editor

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