“It’s not for kids”

Park Proposals

Community meets to discuss land possibility near new senior center

Published in Herald & Tribune Dec. 10, 2014 issue

Although some members of the community voiced their concerns about the proposed park behind the new Senior Center being opened to everyone, including children, others at last week’s workshop wanted to incorporate elements that they could enjoy with their grandchildren.

“This is a community input meeting. It’s an opportunity for people within the community to give us ideas,” Town Administrator Bob Browning told the crowd of about 20 people that gathered Dec. 4 at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center.

The Community Design Assistance Center out of Virginia Tech led the session, which began with a power point presentation before splitting into two smaller groups to give individuals an opportunity to have discussions of what they would like to see at the park.

“Although I cannot give you a timetable on it,” Browning said of when the park would be completed, “It is our intention to change the area behind the new Senior Center building where our municipal garage is currently located.”

That space, Browning said, is approximately 3 acres, with some of the acreage being incorporated into parking for the Senior Center.

“We are in the process of developing an acquisition of property at the west end of town that we are going to try to move to. But in the meantime, we also wanted to plan for what happens when we leave that space,” Browning said. “We feel like we owe it to the neighborhood and the new Senior Center to develop a really nice park area or something that would be an asset to that community around there.”

The presentation showed such ideas as multi-use trails, different kinds of seating, various structures, games, shaded areas, water features, outdoor performing space, area for outdoor classes and plants that would attract birds and butterflies.

During the presentation, some members of the audience asked if the proposed park was a community park or a senior park.

“All of these pictures you are showing have children on them,” Stacy Rush, a Senior Center Advisory Board member, said of the slideshow presentation.

Rush said the way he understood the paper, was that the park would not be for children, it would be for seniors only.

Lead Landscape Designer Jen Jessup said they are starting off as a community park because that is how they generate ideas. She said if they see that the park is mostly going to be seniors utilizing the space based on everyone’s input, then it will be more of a senior park.

“But we have not got to those stages yet to call it a senior park,” she said. “We are trying to be all inclusive to the neighborhoods surrounding it and trying to get an idea of what the needs of the park are. If the needs of the park are to be a senior park, and strictly a senior park, that will be one of the concepts.”

Once the crowd broke into two smaller groups, they had an opportunity to write down what they wanted to see at the park, which was then displayed for everyone to see.

Such ideas as walking trails, shaded areas, pavilions, water features, restrooms, raised garden beds, places for children to play, swings for sitting and benches with backs, grilling area and a lending library were among some of the ideas.

After Community Design Assistance Center Director Elizabeth Gilboy asked her group if they wanted to bring their grandchildren to the park, a discussion broke out. Many of the members of the group agreed that the park should be used only by senior citizens, which did not sit well with one member of the group, who collected her belongings and left.

Rush said if the space is turned over to allow children to play at the park, senior citizens are going to get run over and possibly knocked down.

Rush said if you put a teeter totter in, the kids will come.

“I haven’t been working this whole time to put in a children’s park,” he said. “We may not be able to put a sign up, but people need to know ahead of time, it’s not for kids.”

Carol Jernigan, who was a registered parish nurse at the Senior Center, said although some members of the community voiced their concerns about the park being used by children, she did not have any trouble with children accessing the space. Jernigan said she does, however, understand why they would like it geared toward a certain age.

“As a population, I don’t think they are anxious to mingle,” she said.

Rush said he would like to see such elements as a shuffle board area, restrooms and places to sit, preferable benches with backs.

Jernigan said she attended the meeting because she has been interested in seeing the Senior Center have a raised garden bed. She said it would be nice to bring seniors together in an outside setting.

“There is plenty of need for fresh food and fresh vegetables,” she said, adding that senior citizens are always looking for inexpensive food opportunities.

Jernigan said she thinks the park is a great idea because it would create a stopping place with extended walkways through town for gathering and recreation.

The ideas from Thursday night’s meeting will be made into two conceptual designs and brought back to the community at the end of January 2015. From there, feedback and comments will be taken into consideration and brought back to the community in March.

‘Lure of the dance’

Lure of the dance: Society thrives as community learns to step to the music

Published in Herald & Tribune Nov. 26, 2014 issue

The Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center was lit up with smiles one recent Saturday night as dancers of all ages swung from one partner to another, all to the beat of the three-man band.

Before the Nov. 15 contra dance began, a workshop was held by nationally renowned dance caller Diane Silver to help newcomers become accustomed to contra lingo and dance steps, as well as provide a refresher for the seasoned dancers.

A large circle surrounded Silver, with men and women in pairs as they went through such steps as pass through shoulder to shoulder with a new neighbor; ladies pass right shoulders while looping around a gentleman; and balance and swing, pull and swing around.

Georgia Mason of Asheville and Jeff Waddell of Jonesborough, dance. Photo by Charlie Mauk

Georgia Mason of Asheville and Jeff Waddell of Jonesborough, dance.
Photo by Charlie Mauk

Betsy Campbell, a resident of North Carolina, said the 30-minute beginner workshop typically includes seasoned dancers who help newcomers get the steps down. She said in contra dance, the seasoned dancers are encouraged to dance with new people.“The fact that everybody helps each other, so you don’t feel left out” is something Campbell thoroughly enjoys about contra dance.

Once the workshop ended, the Visitors Center came alive with sounds of the fiddle, guitar, mandolin and foot percussions from the band, Pete’s Posse, as the dancers moved from partner to partner, all while further mastering the contra dance steps.

New friendships blossomed as men and women asked each other to dance, which oftentimes left the seats that lined the wall of the center empty.

“I have always wanted to learn,” Campbell said. “Now that I’m retired, I can go to the dance classes.”

The Nov. 15 dance, marked Campbell’s 12th contra dance overall and her fourth time participating in the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society dance. She said she sees a lot of the same people at the different dances she attends, which can be as far as 45 minutes away from her home.

Campbell continues to attend the dances because she enjoys the variety of age groups that participate.

Seth Parker, a Greeneville resident, began contra dancing about a year ago after he heard about the dances. The 16-year-old attends the dance with other friends from the Greeneville community.

What started off as a group of four friends has expanded to as many as 15 on any given dance night in Jonesborough.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said, when asked why he brings so many new people. “I have improved a lot as a dancer. I’m glad I found it.”

Dave Kehs, a Johnson City resident, found out about contra dancing one Saturday when he was attending an art exhibit at the center in December of last year. He decided to attend the next upcoming dance.

“It’s something different to do,” he said, adding that he enjoys dancing with people from all over.

Organizer David Wiley said contra dances are about building the community by using traditional dance and music. He said nine marriages have stemmed from the dances during the nine years they have been held.

The beauty of those marriages, Wiley said, is they started off with two people not knowing each other before they attended a dance.

Wiley said because of social media, the dance community continues to grow.

He takes pictures of every dance and posts them on Facebook, which gives the dance participants opportunities to tag themselves in the photographs. Wiley said new friend requests are made, which sometimes turns into invitations to carpool to other contra dances outside of Jonesborough.

Wiley said the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society, a nonprofit organization, was chartered in the fall of 2005, and the first dance event was held in January 2006.

“We are finishing up our ninth year,” he said.

Wiley said the idea to form the organization came from a desire to round out the arts programs in Jonesborough because there were lots of storytelling, theater and Music on the Square events, but no dance.

“Folk dance was a big part of our region for a long time,” he said, adding that with popular culture, a lot of it was pushed out of the way for more modern leisure activity.

Since dance was once a focal point of a community, the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society was formed to bring it to the forefront once again.

“With the prevalence of social media, digital media, TV, internet . . . a lot of people are choosing to withdraw and disconnect from community,” Wiley said. “Realizing how important community is, I felt like the contra dance, traditional folk dance, would be a good vehicle to try to build a community around.”

In 2008, Wiley said, they put the wood floor in the Visitors Center auditorium.

“Our organization donated that floor to the town of Jonesborough,” he said. “We had been dancing on concrete with tile over it for two years.

“Amazingly, we still got people to come.”

By laying down a new floor, the organization took the dance to a professional level, which brought more people to the area.

“It is a professional-grade dance floor,” Wiley said. “It allowed me as an organizer to go out to dance communities similar to ours all over the country.”

Wiley said they hold 30 events a year and made the national country dance map in a relatively short time.

The Contra Dance nights are held on the first and third Saturday of the month at the Jonesborough Visitors Center.

The next dance will be held on Saturday, Dec. 6, with the band Toss the Possum. A beginner’s class will start at 7 p.m., and the dance will be held from 7:30-10:30 p.m.

For more information, call Wiley at 534-8879, visit http://www.historicjonesboroughdancesociety.org or like its Facebook page.