By Richard Sullins |

Lee County moved another step closer to a revitalized park system on Friday when a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at Horton Park to celebrate the “soft” reopening of the facility with new equipment and landscaping.

Lee County Commission Vice Chair Arianna Lavallee spoke on behalf of the county and said that she was “excited for the memories that will take place here.”

Sanford Mayor Pro Tempore Byron Buckels was reminded of the park’s history.

“For some of us, our first kisses may have taken place here,” which got a big laugh from the 125 people who braved a chilly afternoon to attend the ceremony, many of whom brought their children or grandchildren.

“There has been a lot of family memories made at Horton Park over the years and I’m excited about being a part of the team that will continue to provide the opportunities for those family memories,” said Lee County Parks and Recreation Director Joseph Keel. “The state-of-the-art playground and ADA surfacing is a great asset to the community.”

The original plan was to refurbish the park and demolish the pool and pool house because they had fallen into disrepair. But members of the community began attending meetings of the County Commissioners and their voices were heard.

“The community heard about it, and they stepped up. That’s how government is supposed to work,” said Buckels.

Horton Park is the second of four county parks to be revitalized this year. In October, Kiwanis Children’s Park reopened after remodeling and renovation. Temple Park, located at Seventh and McIver streets, is presently undergoing a makeover and is next on the list for completion if weather permits. Work on O.T. Sloan Park is also under way.

Horton Park’s construction included a new playground and equipment for children of all ages, new park shelters, a revitalized baseball field, and the resurfacing of existing basketball courts. The soft reopening will allow community members to enjoy these portions of the park while the pool and the pool house will be refurbished over the next few months. A full reopening has tentatively been scheduled for July 2022 and Buckels said that he can’t wait.

“Things can happen, but I’m going to say to you who are here today that I want to be the first to jump into the water. I’m planning to come with my bathing suit on,” he said. “Now, that will be a sight.”

J.M. Thompson was the general contractor for the Horton Park project and WithersRavenel provided engineering services.