Experiencing the Cary Community
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On Saturday, August 3, 2019, more than 260 scouts and 50 adult volunteers from two dozen troops attended the first-ever Town of Cary Merit Badge College and filled the Council Chambers for the opening ceremony. Hosted in coordination with the Occonneechee Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the event offered the opportunity for scouts to earn merit badges related to municipal government. Demand for the 15 classes was so high that when registration opened in mid-July, the event filled up in just 15 minutes.
Council Member Jennifer Robinson originally suggested the idea of having staff members use their expertise to teach Scout Merit Badges with the opportunity to help scouts understand how these topics relate to municipal government. Development Planning Manager Rob Wilson suggested offering a selection of such merit badges on the same day, making it a major campus-wide event. Planning for the event began in January 2019, and over 70 Cary staff members got involved and volunteered their Saturday to help make the event possible.
Merit badge classes held on the Town Hall Campus included Citizenship in the Community, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, American Labor, Chess, Digital Technology, Disabilities Awareness, Dog Care, Fingerprinting, Crime Prevention, Journalism and Traffic Safety. An Automotive Maintenance class was held at the fleet facility at Public Works, a Soil and Water Conservation class visited the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Plant and the North Cary Water Reclamation Facility, and the Fire Safety class visited Fire Station 2. Given the high demand and positive feedback, planning is already underway to host the second annual Town of Cary Merit Badge College on Saturday,
August 1, 2020.
Over the last two years, staff members have been working on the planning, permitting and construction of a new disc golf course on 46 acres adjacent to New Hope Trailhead Park. Cary currently has one course at Middle Creek School Park. This second course was designed to have a mix of land features and rolling terrain, creating the setting for a course with a balance of playability. The course straddles the American Tobacco Trail and is located just south of the existing trailhead, which has restrooms and a picnic shelter. Volunteers coordinated by Capital Area Disc League are in the final stages of installing tees and baskets for the 22-hole course.
The 44th annual Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival from August 24–25 featured over 300 artists from 18 states, 30 food vendors and four stages of entertainment. The Page-Walker Arts & History Center hosted the NC Storytelling Guild, a watercolors gallery by David and Sean Stickel and a Kids Zone in the gardens. Demonstrations from leather workers, master chefs and live painters took place at the Herb Young Community Center.
Jerry Miller, local artist and founder of Lazy Daze, was honored by dedicating and renaming The Parlor, a historic room in the Page-Walker Arts & History Center, to the “Jerry Miller Room.” Jerry Miller’s family and close friends, along with Town Council, attended.
Creative Block was an out-of-the-box approach by mural artist Lisa Gaither to create an eye-catching and functional safety roadblock. To create a pedestrian-friendly entrance to 2019 Lazy Daze Festival, Lisa painted canvas that wrapped eight jersey barriers at the intersection of Chapel Hill Road and Academy Street.
The North Carolina Taiwanese Cultural Arts, Sister Cities Association of Cary and the Town of Cary collaborated on a culinary arts experience featuring a demonstration and food tastings. Taiwanese Cultural Arts selected two master chefs from Taiwan, Chef Hsu Cheng-Tang and Chef Lee Chien-Hsuan, to host the culinary demonstrations and provide samples of their food. Close to 400 small plates, 400 spring rolls, 400 pot stickers and 200 sesame balls delighted the palates of festival attendees.
The threat of rain, which did eventually close the festival around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, did not deter festival aficionados from attending. Furthermore, Lazy Daze continued to see the benefit of being a two-day festival and providing the public with another opportunity to visit the festival on Sunday.
Artist Brad Spencer and brick masons from Pinnacle Masonry completed the sculpture brick bench, Arts Al Fresco, along the Black Creek Greenway at the Old Reedy Creek Trailhead.
American Legion Post 67, the Winston-Salem Regional Office (WSRO) of the Veteran’s Administration and other community partners held a Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC) at the Herb Young Community Center September 12-14. NC Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Secretary Larry D. Hall and staffers from Governor Roy Cooper’s office attended the event.
WSRO staffers provided assistance for 1,131 veterans and their families, including two World War II veterans and multiple Korean War veterans. Veterans Service Officers interviewed veterans, helping them file new claims. During the three-day event, 831 claims were received: 443 new disability compensation claims, 186 supplemental/higher level review claims and 52 Intents to File. In addition, several on-the-spot rating decisions were completed for claims requiring expedited action, and more than $516,869 in retroactive benefits were paid out.
This event was a tremendous success for the WSRO. The opportunity to serve so many veterans and their families in such a personal way is not a daily occurrence and being able to provide immediate assistance, explanation of benefits and services, as well as definitive action on claims that were ready for completion was extremely rewarding. Cary officials and staff were pleased to play a part by hosting the event.
Summer Camp options for families continue to be an important citizen service. In 2019, there were 9,568 registered participants in a variety of camp programs across Cary. A significant success for this year was decreasing the wait list from 1,866 in 2018 to 1,399 in 2019. This was primarily accomplished by adding 40 participants per week for day camps at Bond Park. Adding capacity to this program allowed for 285 more participants.
This is the third year the Town has used ePact to collect on-line emergency information forms for families. This application allows families to submit secure medical information electronically and for staff to access that information via the web, resulting in a more efficient operation. Approximately 80 percent of participants utilized this service. A continuing challenge for camps is staff recruitment. Strategies to address this issue are being developed for 2020.
Staff analyzed FY19 operations stats for WakeMed Soccer Park, USA Baseball National Training Complex, Cary Tennis Park, Sk8 Cary and the softball complexes at Thomas Brooks Park and Middle Creek Park. Revenues came in at $4.1 million, or $254,000 more than projected, and expenses were $5.3 million, or $34,000 less than projected (including both PRCR and PW expenses). This resulted in a 79 percent cost recovery, the highest cost recovery to date for Cary’s sports venues. The increase in revenue was not due to any one factor but to cumulative, incremental increases at each venue, especially at WakeMed Soccer Park and Cary Tennis Park.
Given the ongoing demand for services in western Cary, staff members have developed alternate program locations for citizens in this area.
- In partnership with Wake County Public Schools, the newly-constructed Alston Ridge Middle School included Cary-funded upgrades for the school gym including retractable basketball goals, pickleball courts, and a gym divider curtain to facilitate programming. The first activities began in September with youth basketball league play, pickleball and open gym.
- Summer camps have been provided at Mills Park Elementary School since 2016. Participation increased from 241 campers in 2016 to 904 campers in 2019.
- Year-round programming is offered at The Hive. Since opening in October 2018, The Hive has served 1,258 participants with 354 art and recreation activities.
The sixth annual Asia Fest, co-sponsored by Asian Focus NC, welcomed more than 6,500 visitors to Koka Booth Amphitheatre on September 28. Asia Fest was formally known as the Dragon Boat Festival, but the name was changed in 2019 to more broadly highlight Asian culture in the Triangle. Asia Fest hosts a large dragon boat competition with 25 teams, some traveling from Beaufort, Charlotte and the state of Virginia, to compete in three heats. In addition to the dragon boat races, festival goers were entertained by 80 acts that performed throughout the day and were able to connect with vendors selling food and merchandise. Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest and nearly 40 dignitaries from local municipalities joined in the festivities.
The Atlantic Tire Championships were held at Cary Tennis Park September 9–15. This Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) men’s tournament is a springboard for players looking to gain direct entrance into larger ATP Tour Events. Andreas Seppi was this year’s singles champion. In addition to providing a local opportunity to see professional tennis matches, the tournament hosted a variety of community events, including an Abilities Tennis of North Carolina clinic, a wheelchair tennis clinic and a ladies charity event benefiting Transitions LifeCare. The tournament had its largest attendance to date with a 100 percent increase in ticket sales from last year.
Cary Tennis Park received the U.S. Tennis Association’s (USTA) highest facility honor as the winner of the 2019 Featured Facility Award. Nominees are judged on the construction and renovation of their facilities and their tennis programming. Of the 25 winners, Cary Tennis Park was the only winner designated a Featured Facility. Cary Tennis Park was recognized for its commitment to community tennis and its recent facility improvements, including covered courts with heaters and multipurpose youth courts with pickleball lines. Also mentioned in the USTA-produced video that premiered during the awards presentation was the addition of Playsight cameras with integrated live scoring accessible online. Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Director Doug McRainey accepted the award during the U.S. Open in New York.