Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary visits Salisbury’s ‘particularly ambitious’ Bell Tower Green Park – Salisbury Post


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By Natalie Anderson
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SALISBURY – During a visit to Salisbury on Friday, North Carolina Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Reid Wilson praised the Bell Tower Green Park and discussed the millions of new dollars in spending included in the state budget 2021-2023.

Wilson’s Department oversees a number of state resources including historic preservation, state parks, art, history and science museums, aquariums, African American Heritage Commission and the Office of Land and Water Stewardship. Governor Roy Cooper appointed Wilson to his current post in 2020. Prior to that, Wilson was Executive Director of the North Carolina Nonprofit Conservation Trust Fund from 2003 to 2017 and served nearly eight years in the administration of former President Bill Clinton to the US Environmental Protection Agency. .

Wilson said a public-private partnership approach for projects similar to Bell Tower Green can be found statewide, Salisbury is unique in that the park has been almost entirely funded by “amazing and caring families” who made it a reality.

“This project is particularly ambitious,” Wilson said. “Salisbury is special that way.”

The state budget allocates just over $ 227 million for the 2021-2022 fiscal year and $ 231.3 million for the 2022-2023 fiscal year to the Ministry of Natural and Cultural Resources. Wilson said that includes tens of millions of additional dollars that will go to the Parks and Recreation Trust’s grant program, zoos, museums and libraries. Rowan County lawmakers also helped secure a $ 200,000 grant for the maintenance and upkeep of Bell Tower Green Park, which is in addition to the $ 350,000 parks and recreation trust fund that the city ​​received in 2018 for the city purchase.

Wilson said the budget more than doubled funding for zoos, while funding to help libraries was increased by $ 11 million. Arts organizations can apply for grants from a cash reserve of $ 16 million greater than funds allocated in previous budgets. Wilson said these “exponential increases” would help these facilities not only survive, but thrive.

“These investments are a sign that the heads of state on both sides understand that North Carolinians value their history, their culture, their parks, their trails,” Wilson said. “We’re the department of things people love in North Carolina. “

The North Carolina Transportation Museum, another stop on Wilson’s journey, received $ 10 million to cover the costs of renovating the Powerhouse facility and building a garage to house historic rail cars, as well as $ 280,000 for replace lost revenue from the pandemic.

Wilson said the pandemic has also sparked a renewed desire among North Carolinians to be outdoors and in nature, which improves the overall quality of life. At the start of the pandemic, most indoor facilities were closed to the public to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and some parks were forced to close due to those not adhering to social distancing or masking protocols . Wilson recalled reports that some North Carolina residents were crowding national and local parks to steal soap and hand sanitizer.

But closing the doors to state museums and other recreational facilities has provided a new opportunity. Since many staff members were able to conduct more research, a number of museums have new exhibit panels with additional educational information. The department has also started moving its educational outreach online, with around 1,500 pieces of educational content garnering more than 250 million views across the state, Wilson said. This opportunity allowed the ministry to broaden its reach.

Wilson said that while school trips are slowly picking up, he anticipates more normal volume in the spring.

“So now when you go there is more to learn,” Wilson said. “We took advantage of a bad situation to improve many of our sites and provide more educational material.”

One of the objectives of this educational awareness is information on climate change and its impacts. Wilson said the Pilot Mountain fire and the ongoing drought are examples of how climate change is spreading beyond coastal communities. One of the department’s goals is to reduce its carbon footprint at hundreds of facilities, become more energy efficient, and help communities become more climate resilient. Wilson said there are many scientists who work with nature and have the skills to explain climate change and its effects.

“I think we have a role to play in providing very objective and scientifically based information on what climate change is, its causes and its harmful effects, what can be done about it,” Wilson said. “We have a small team that comes together. There is a lot of information on climate change, but I want it to be very science-based but communicated in an understandable way. “

Wilson said respect for historic preservation is evident in places like Salisbury, and the location of Bell Tower Green Park reinforces the vibrancy of the city’s downtown area.

“I always love coming to Salisbury,” Wilson said. ” This is a beautiful city. Lots to do here for a relatively small town. And it’s a place where there is nature, arts, culture and history all at the same time, which is great.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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