The season for cookouts, games and outdoor relaxation is in full swing at local parks across the state. It’s especially the right time for fun in the town of Warrenton, near the Virginia state line, which recently opened its first municipal park. It sits in an all-black community that has had few options for recreation over the years.
The new Hayley-Haywood Park is named after one of the park's bordering streets. Hayley-Haywood is also the name of a well-known family who lived in that neighborhood and the name of the family who donated the land for this space.
Warrenton Mayor Walter Gardner recognized one of the oldest living family members at the park’s dedication.
“We recognize Dr. L. Julian Haywood for his contributions to his hometown, the field of education and the world of medicine,” said Gardner.
The Haywood home, a pale yellow Greek Revival, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's visible from the park, which is historic in its own right.
“We join with relatives, friends, neighbors, the town’s elected officials and staff to thank him for making this park possible," said Gardner.
Warrenton has never had a municipal park. On a recent Saturday afternoon, Mayor Gardner said Warren County oversees a playground built by the Rotary Club, but there hasn't been a park, until now.
"Funding is the big thing and finding a location," said Gardner. "You don’t have many large tracts of land within the municipality, so this worked out perfect.”
The Haywood family lived on that perfect piece of land for generations. They were one of the most prominent African-American families in Warrenton. Dr. Thomas Haywood was believed to be the first black doctor in town. Several older people at the dedication said he delivered them.
One of Thomas Haywood’s children is also a doctor. Cardiologist L. Julian Haywood is credited with getting the land donated. Once there was land for a park, the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund awarded the town a $28,000 matching grant to transform the four-acre property. The town of Warrenton tossed in $5,000.
The 91-year-old L. Julian Haywood spent most of his career at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine. But he remembers playing and working on that land in Warrenton as a young child.
“It was a cotton field, and I picked cotton row from row, all the way back down to where that fence is. Yes indeed,” said Haywood, surrounded by family at the dedication.
The family lived, played and worked the land dating back to 1904, during Reconstruction and segregation.
“We kept a horse in the barn, and we had chickens and cows and my mother used to milk the cow right in the backdoor of the house,” said Haywood.
Lyman B. Henderson is a dentist in Warrenton. He also grew up in the all-black enclave that now borders the park.
“Dr. Haywood let me keep my horse right on this lot, and I would go riding every day. I loved horses," said Henderson. "And so, this is home.”
Henderson said he was lucky when he and his family wanted to relax and picnic, they were able to hop in their car and travel to Kerr Lake. He said that wasn’t the case for many of his Warrenton neighbors. But now that’s changed.
“It’s the most fantastic thing the land could have been used for,” said Henderson, with a big smile.
The new Haley-Haywood Park sits across from the Warren County Senior Center. So far, there are a couple of picnic tables and a walking trail, but its main feature is a 9 Hole Disc Golf Course. Instead of golf balls and clubs, players use discs or Frisbees to toss into metal baskets.
There are no stalls for horses. But you can bring your dog, if it’s on a leash.