The Walltown Park Recreation Center gym was standing room only on Saturday morning, when city and county officials, Duke representatives, and leaders from community organizations joined Walltown residents of all ages to celebrate the center’s grand opening.
“We have toiled for 20 years to bring this facility to Walltown,” said Audrey Mitchell, president of the Walltown Neighborhood Association. “This day is really a momentous occasion for the Walltown community.”
The vision for a Walltown community center was born in the 1950s, when residents began seeking a place where neighborhood children could go after school or during the summer. When the city would not build the neighborhood a community center, residents took it upon themselves to do so. They also volunteered afterschool programming and donated books to guarantee the center was put to good use.
On Saturday, eight of the neighborhood residents who built that original center were in attendance. Stones from that building compose one wall of the new facility, framing a plaque that honors the 1957 Walltown Mayor and Council.
“Though this facility is new, we made sure it maintained the rich history of the Walltown neighborhood,” said Mayor Bill Bell at the event. “This facility was made with you in mind, and we hope you make use of it.”
The Walltown Park Recreation Center opens this week with afterschool programming for youth and teens. Other programs will be available in October, when the center is fully staffed. The facility boasts a dance studio, teen center, senior center, computer lab, culinary teaching kitchen, fitness equipment, basketball courts, locker rooms and a mezzanine-level walking track.
The space was designed following forums for community input; Rhonda Parker, director of Durham Parks and Recreation, said her staff will continue to seek feedback from the community to better design programs and facility improvements.
After years of petitioning from the neighborhood, the Walltown Park Recreation Center began with a 2003 feasibility study and ultimately was funded through a 2005 city bond referendum.
“The Walltown Neighborhood Association deserves a great deal of credit for their perseverance, because they represented the hopes and aspirations of the community – past, present and future,” said Duke Director of Community Engagement Sam Miglarese. “This center could become the anchor for the Walltown community and all the faith-based organizations, nonprofits and schools that reside here.”