In a quest to improve Washington Street Park, residents are questioning who legally owns what was once the only park in the city where black children could play.
"I did the research, and when I did the presentation, to me, someone should have stepped up then (and) said the information is wrong," said Henrietta Goode of the Northwest Quadrant neighborhood association.
Goode made the presentation to city council in March. She spoke of improving the park and installing restrooms after seeing neighbors allow children into their homes to use the bathroom.
The neighborhood association began to work with the city, which developed plans to upgrade the park.
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At Tuesday's council workshop, the city considered legal action to place the park in the city's name since officials do not believe the deeded organization -- the Beaufort County Negro Recreational Center -- is currently functioning. Legal ownership would improve the city's opportunities for grants, officials said.
"I wouldn't want the city to invest and put a lot of money into it and ... someone comes along and says 'this is ours,'" Goode said.
Beaufort County records show the L-shaped property at 1011 Newcastle St., belongs to the center. The organization's mailing address is a city post office box.
The park was created in 1942 and is formally named the Beaufort County Negro Recreational Center for Negro Children and has a long, rich history, Goode said.
From the 1950s through 1970s, it was home to community functions, church revivals and Decoration Day fairs.
It is still used for picnics, Easter egg hunts, concerts, festivals, church activities and providing meals for the less fortunate on Thursdays and Fridays, Goode said.
Dwayne Smalley of the neighborhood association said his organization has been approached by a group claiming ownership.
Fred Washington Jr., who is also chairman of the Beaufort County school board, confirmed he is part of that group interested in establishing ownership. However, he and other members offered few comments on the group -- including its name, goals, and legal documentation -- on Wednesday.
"Until we have this group that is reconstituted, and until we make sure our legal t's are crossed and i's are dotted, I don't want to say much," Washington said.
He believes the group's intent is to establish ownership and work with the city to ensure the park remains a beneficial part of Beaufort.
"I consider it to be a part of my heritage," the 65-year-old resident said. "I grew up here, and that park is where I played."
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.