Not far from the Lee-Harnett county line along a stretch of rural highway (Old U.S. 421) that runs parallel to the current U.S. 421 sits a glorious old brick structure — an abandoned school house that you could imagine as a backdrop in movies.
Unfortunately, as great as the building looks on the outside, it’s equally “tore up from the floor up” on the inside. With Harnett County Government looking at a price tag in the millions (as high as $10 million) to completely renovate the school for future use, the county has decided to schedule its demolition for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
That said, the land is still being put to good use. One year ago this week, the county celebrated the grand opening of the Boone Trail Community Center & Library after renovating the school’s gymnasium. A new playground sits in front of the community center, and the county has built new baseball fields on the site at 8500 Old U.S. 421, west of Lillington (not too far from Raven Rock State Park).
The county will host a community meeting from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Monday at the community center to provide an update regarding park development and the ominous status of the old school building. According to Interim Assistant County Manager and Community & Government Relations Director Brian Haney, the meeting will offer a chance for the community to offer its input on the land.
“When the school system opens a new school, the county inherits the old buildings, and unfortunately, in the past, the county has been unable to renovate some of these buildings,” Haney said. “So they sit and deteriorate, which is what happened to Boone Trail. We were able to salvage some of the newer parts of the school [for the community center], which has been part of a successful strategy to bring services to unincorporated parts of the county.”
Haney said the county is working on a similar project at the former Shawtown campus closer to downtown Lillington. Much of that campus will be torn down, with plans to renovate newer existing buildings.
Parks Director Carl Davis said future plans for the Boone Trail site include a new walking trail, park shelter and potential outdoor basketball courts. Other ideas include a botanical garden or “whatever the community feels it needs from a community park.”
“This meeting is an opportunity for the community to express its wants and needs, rather than having us tell them what they’re getting,” Davis said.
As for the school building, it’s still standing … for now. Should an investor step in or should a fundraising effort raise millions to give it new life, there’s always hope.
“We know these buildings mean a lot to the community, but ultimately we hope the community understands that we can create a more vibrant site for the community,” Haney said. “We’re committed to getting their input, and that’s what these meetings are for.”