Burgaw is often described as a sleepy little farm town.
Cody Suggs, parks and recreation director for the town, said this is just not the case.
“Burgaw is great place socially, culturally and economically. We have a lot of new things happening around town. Burgaw has changed a lot since my arrival. We have lots of new projects, programs, businesses and industry, and lots of new plans on the horizon that will put us in line for success in future years,” Suggs said.
The town’s parks, recreation and tourism department recently completed several projects and is involved in several more aimed to enhance the quality of the lives of the estimated 3,100 residents. The town has a comprehensive system of parks, greenways, facilities and open spaces that help promote health and the enjoyment of outdoor activity in Burgaw, according to Suggs.
Through a matching grant from BCI Burke Co., the W. Ross Harrell Memorial Park was remodeled and playground equipment was replaced. Renovations to the Burgaw Community House and Historic Burgaw Train Depot were completed this past February. The renovation of Bishop Rayford Hankins Memorial Park and Rotary Park restrooms were completed in June, financed through the American Rescue Plan Act.
Working with the Burgaw Beautification Committee, Suggs is addressing out-of-date landscaping to increase the curb appeal in town and will begin installation of a regulation basketball court and a volleyball court at Rotary Park in July. The department has applied for a $25,000 grant through PetSafe for a dog park to be named Burgaw BarkPark if selected for the grant.
Suggs said the most challenging part of his role is fulfilling needs of a multi-generational population. “Our department serves all ages from the very young to the retired. We are small, so sometimes wants and needs go unfulfilled until resources become available,” Suggs said.
One project that rallies across generations is the Osgood Canal Greenway and Urban Trail project. The first phase provided a safe walkable area around the central portion of the town limits. The $850,000 project funded through the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) and a matching grant through the state of North Carolina has delivered beyond expectations, Suggs said.
“Our residents and visitors love the first phase. We are always getting compliments on how people enjoy the trail. We see people exercising on the trail every day,” he said. “Others contact our office to request use of the trail for other types of programs.”
With community support through surveys and public meetings, Suggs recently applied to PARTF for a matching grant for the second phase of the trail project, estimated to cost $890,000. This phase will add 2-and-a-half miles of multi-purpose paths and sidewalks. Plans also include a passive park for picnics, a gaga ball pit, outdoor fitness equipment, an AstroTurf 40-yard dash sprint track, four rapid flashing beacons for major intersections, StoryWalks, trash cans and benches.
“Enhancing the trail should have a major impact for businesses and residents on the west side of town. Currently, there are no connectable sidewalks from the west side of town to the historic district of downtown Burgaw. This phase will make that connection as well as connect schools, churches and businesses,” explained Suggs.
About $350,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds are already allotted for this phase, with the remaining funds expected to come from the town of Burgaw’s general fund.
Over the years, Burgaw has been the backdrop for many movies and television shows.
“Burgaw offers Hallmark-type charm that makes any film magical,” said Suggs, who is responsible for communicating with the film productions crews, issuing permits for filming and reserving housing and locations for film crews to eat and stage equipment. One example of a production that used Burgaw as a setting, the FOX series Welcome to Flatch was renewed for a second season.
“We don’t have much information at this point, but we welcome the production crew back to town with open arms. We have great success with filming, and it is always a treat to see our town featured on the big screen,” said Suggs.
It’s even harder to talk about Burgaw without mentioning blueberries.
The N.C. Blueberry Festival returned to Burgaw in June. “As a town, we were thrilled to see the festival return and businesses thrive,” said Suggs.
The Burgaw Blueberry Drop, held on New Year’s Eve, also pays homage to the fruit.
Suggs is quick to acknowledge the team who deserves the credit for the many happenings in Burgaw. Jayna Augst, recreation coordinator, the Burgaw Parks and Recreation Committee and Burgaw Tourism Development Authority along with staff at the town hall, police, fire, administration and public works and planning department work together.
“We are a team. Without everyone, we can’t do what we do,” Suggs said.
He’s optimistic about the future.
“Burgaw has lots to offer,” Suggs said. “I love our small-town charm, the willingness of residents to participate in activities and seeing the direct impact we are making. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”