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Butler Community Park celebrates a new chapter

Butler Community Park celebrated a new chapter in its history this past weekend as county officials and community leaders officially celebrated a rehabilitation effort put together by the Butler Ruritan and funded in part through Mountain Electric’s Operation Pocket Change. Dr. Sandra Fortune was a guest speaker at the ceremony, explaining some of the details of the Pocket Change program and expressing her appreciation for the dedication of those volunteers who have given the park a new lease on life.
According to Fortune, Butler Park is just one of the many projects that have received funding in the Mountain Electric service area. Rounding electric bills up to the nearest dollar, more than $1.5 million has been raised in less than a decade. The money goes not only to community projects but to local fire departments and into an annual scholarship program as well.
“There are other systems across the nation that have made this endeavor and each one gets to set it up according to their own criteria,” Fortune said. “There is an application process and organizations have to file what they are planning to do, submit a budget for doing it, and list what other funds are going to be used for the project to help support the effort. Operation Pocket Change doesn’t traditionally fully fund any project; the community has to step in, but we do things for our youth outside of the school system and certainly this park is a way to help the youth of the community. It’s a lovely place. I can see today that the children are enjoying it so much. They’re all so busy playing on the slides and the swings and having a grand time enjoying the facilities as I know they will throughout the summer.”
There was plenty of community involvement in this project, which included the restoration of playground equipment, paving and resurfacing the tennis courts, and the eventual establishment of a walking trail. The project was organized and motivated through the Butler Ruritan, with members like Merry Murdock and President Bill Benedict working tirelessly to ensure that the park was made better than ever.
The history of the site dates back to the creation of Highway 67, which required heavy cutting on the mountainside. Material was moved from the construction to partially fill in the hollow carved by Vandeventer branch, which begins at the top of Iron Mountain and flows all the way to Watauga Lake. An endangered species of fish was found in the stream’s waters and the land was eventually set aside. Although governed through TVA, Johnson County assumed control of the site and eventually a group of citizens led by community leaders such as Grady Whaley pitched in together to establish a park.
That was in 1990, and although the park has had its ups and downs, vandalism and a lack of maintenance had seen the site fall into recent disrepair. Thankfully, as one of the biggest community organizations, the Butler Ruritan took it upon themselves to restore and protect the park. A diverse group of local individuals, organizations, and businesses have also dedicated their time and work into the project and at the official ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday morning, President Bill Benedict made a point to thank each.

To read the entire article, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.