Taking back Dover Park: Upcoming fundraiser a big step

Roy Sudler Jr.

DOVER — City Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. says the best way to keep criminal activity out of Dover’s city parks is for the community to utilize them and make them their own.

That’s why Mr. Sudler, chairman of the city of Dover’s Parks, Recreation and Community Enhancement Committee, is so excited he has received backing from the Dover City Council for a Back-to-School Supply Giveaway and Rib-Off Contest fundraiser that will be held at Dover Park on Saturday, Sept. 9.

Proceeds from the city-sponsored fundraiser, which will be held from noon until 5 p.m. at the park at 1210 White Oak Road, will be split between the revitalization of Dover Park and improvements at Continental Park in Bicentennial Village. The event will be free to attend.

“I was extremely excited and extremely proud of Dover City Council and to be a member of this movement to revitalize Dover Park and all of our parks,” Councilman Sudler said. “This has been something that has needed to be done for some time now and I’m glad that the city of Dover and city council has deemed it necessary to do so.

“I’m looking forward to making a statement that we will not be deterred by gang activity, criminal activity or anyone who brings harm to our city parks. We are in control and we are going to remain in control.”

The fundraiser at Dover Park will feature a Rib-Off cooking contest, a bike rodeo, horseshoe pitching, face painting, K9 demonstrations with the Dover Police Department, sports demonstrations, complimentary hot dogs and hamburgers and a chess and checkers tournament.

Mr. Sudler noted that the Fraternal Order of Police would be doing the back-to-school giveaway and the Police Athletic League would be holding a three-on-three basketball tournament.

The event will also feature an “Enough is Enough Gang and Youth Violence March” around the park calling for an increase in public safety strategies from the city and the state,

“All (fundraiser) funds will be raised through donations and there aren’t any items or events that the community will have to pay for,” Mr. Sudler said. “There will be an informational station at (Dover Park’s) pavilion with a donation bucket.

“This is a grassroots initiative where the community comes in, buys in, and donates money.”

Several city councilmen have donated a portion of their discretionary funds toward the event.

Acting City Manager Donna Mitchell said that labor and cost of overtime by city staff for the event would be around $1,300.

Mr. Sudler noted that more than $3,000 had already been raised and would be put toward the cost of staff overtime, while the remaining balance will go toward whatever is raised at the fundraiser.

He said that he’s currently negotiating with Sam’s Club for it to provide food for the fundraiser in exchange for the business getting to use Schutte Park in the future as host for a Special Olympic activity.

Dave Hugg, acting city planner and director of Parks and Recreation, said he has been impressed by the large number of residents in the east Dover community that have met three or four times over the summer to take back ownership of Dover Park.

“We need to recognize the value of that park as an anchor park, to identify what needs to be done to bring that park back to its one-time premier status, and to encourage the local residents to take ownership so that people who do not use the park for its proper purposes are aware that they are not going to be tolerated anymore,” Mr. Hugg said.

Mr. Sudler said several improvements to Dover Park have already taken place over the summer and that the park’s portion of the fundraiser proceeds will go towards construction of a new indoor community center.

He added that he has been very happy with working with Mrs. Mitchell and Mr. Hugg, as well at the city’s Parks and Recreation staff, in working to improve all of the city’s parks.

“Not only am I excited about the revitalization of Dover Park, I’m even more excited about working with our acting city manager (Mrs. Mitchell) and city planner (Mr. Hugg),” said Mr. Sudler. “They bring a new energy to the process.

“It shows that we care and we’re going to find a way to get things done. The ‘Book of No’ has now been closed.”

Mr. Hugg deflected any recognition to the community members who are working to bring Dover Park back to life.

“We want a large number of people to come out and enjoy themselves who want to take their park back and say, ‘This is our park,’” he said. “This is our community and we want this park to be safe and we want it to be attractive and we want it to be a real anchor in our park system.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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