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Taking root

City dedicates trees, thanks contributor at Town Green

Posted: November 3, 2011 4:41 p.m.
Updated: November 4, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Clear blue skies and only slightly chilly breezes greeted visitors to Camden’s Town Green at noon Thursday for a tree dedication ceremony. The ceremony also served as a thank-you to those who donated trees to the Green.

“The time is now,” Mayor Jeffrey Graham said of the need to thank those contributors. “To those of you who weren’t quite sure this was the best investment of city funds, I hope you can see that it was right to invest now for the future of all of us.”

The mayor pointed out that where the Town Green is today -- in fact, all of downtown Camden -- used to be a swamp. Colonial Camden’s downtown, Graham said, was where Rhame Arena stands now, more than a half-mile away at the corner of Broad and Bull streets. Then, he said, city leaders dreamed of moving the city to its current borders.

“This is one of those dreams -- it’s what you said we needed to do,” Graham said of transforming the former East Back (parking) Lot into the Town Green.

He said the project has created something that will give enjoyment to Camden residents for generations to come.

“This place has come alive,” Graham added, referring to recent and upcoming events being held on the Green.

The mayor said he hoped there would be more such events and predicted there would be more in 2012 than in the past six months.

“The real problem was underground with some (infrastructure) going back to 100 years ago with little enhancement along the way. That failed with flooded businesses and trucks sinking into the ground. City council decided to not kick the problem down the road, but decided the time was now,” Graham said.

Camden Urban Forester Liz Gilland said trees give a community a sense of space and how the community “feels.” Gilland said two types of trees were donated to the Green: American Hornbeams (“a great shade tree”) and Live Oaks (the Green’s “signature feature by design”).

Camden City Manager Kevin Bronson said a dozen families, businesses or corporations donated trees to the Town Green. The families of Charlie Mullikin and Johnny Pitsenbarger jointly donated one of the Live Oaks. Mayor Graham’s family donated one of the American Hornbeams. Bronson said other trees were donated by the Joseph family of doctors and dentists; the John Orvar Ehrenclou family; James “Cooley” Hinson family; Progress Energy (two of the American Hornbeams); NBSC; friends of Jack Brantley and Aberdeen Catery, which provided food for the event; former City Councilman Nick Lampshire and his wife, Polly; Wells Fargo; Innovista; and the family of Dr. William Lawrence “Larry” Owen.

“Before we even printed the donation forms, I had a check in my hand from his son, Will,” Bronson said. “Will was excited to donate a tree in his dad’s honor. He said the Town Green was exactly the sort of endeavor his father would have advocated for.”

The elder Owen served Kershaw County as a dentist, starting in Elgin and then in Camden, from 1977 until his death in 2008. Bronson said the late dentist also served on Elgin Town Council, the board of the Camden YMCA, board of Historic Camden Revolutionary War Park, Camden Rotary and the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce among others.

“(Bronson) spoke at Rotary about the Town Green one day and I went up to him and asked if they were going to do sponsorships,” Will Owen said. “He said, ‘I haven’t even thought about that.’”

In closing, Mayor Graham recognized his fellow council members in turn.

“Please give them your applause because they were a part of making this decision, they are part of this community and they are part of what we’re trying to do,” Graham said.

Family members and company representatives gathered at their respective trees after the ceremony to look at the plaques installed in front of each, to take pictures and to have pictures taken.

Saturday is the date of the next Town Green event as the United Way of Kershaw County and SAFE Federal Credit Union host a chili cook-off from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under with all proceeds going to the United Way.

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