Imagine shopping around for something without much money to spend, then having a business supply it for free — that’s exactly what happened with a Mount Airy greenway effort.
It involved Eagle Carports, a Mount Airy-based company, donating three shelters and concrete pads for a site along the Emily B. Taylor Greenway where a project began last year to provide restrooms and picnic facilities for trail users and others.
The metallic shelters installed by Eagle Carports will cover a trio of picnic tables, ensuring that those who want to dine in the Great Outdoors will be protected from the sun and other elements. The company’s gift represents thousands of dollars in materials and labor.
But the story doesn’t begin there, according to Darren Lewis, assistant director of Mount Airy Parks and Recreation. Instead, it began last year when the restroom project was taking shape.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted in late summer to award a $226,756 construction contract to J.G. Coram Co. of Mount Airy to develop facilities including the restroom/picnic area behind Choice Physical Therapy in the Roses shopping center.
That contract included other work along the Granite City Greenway system — a Little League baseball practice field at Tharrington Park, near Tharrington Primary School, and a “pocket park” at the confluence of the Ararat River and Lovills Creek.
Although a $250,000 grant was received from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) to finance those enhancements, construction bids came in much higher than anticipated, leading to the project being scaled down.
The budget was “tight,” Lewis said of trying to make sure work at the ball field and behind the Roses shopping center was provided with limited funding available.
At one point, Mount Airy Parks and Recreation began pricing shelters for the picnic tables on the open market, only to encounter another funding-related obstacle.
“Some of the shelters that we had looked at which you could purchase were very expensive and we were just looking for a more economical product,” Lewis recalled Wednesday.
That quest led to Eagle Carports, where General Manager Gabriel Torres Jr. advised that the company did not make the shelters desired for the greenway project — but would consider engineering a product to meet the need if provided the specifications.
“The next thing I knew, they turned around and sent us this outstanding drawing,” said Lewis, who then asked what the shelters built on that design would cost. The answer: nothing.
“They donated all of it,” the assistant parks and recreation director said. “They donated the shelters and the concrete work and everything.”
Lewis estimates that what Eagle Carports supplied normally would have a price tag of $8,000 to $10,000.
With the support of Alicia Torres, owner of Eagle Carports, and Gabriel Torres Jr., along with assistance from company representative Charles Hiatt in coordinating the effort with Darren Lewis, the project was under way in early December.
“Mount Airy Parks and Recreation was excited about the engineered drawings that Eagle presented,” Lewis commented regarding a design that might be utilized elsewhere.
“It is our hope that this product could meet the needs of other recreation departments in North Carolina and beyond,” he added. “Mount Airy Parks and Recreation is proud to partner with Eagle Carports.”
Meanwhile, the picnic tables to go under the shelters have been ordered by the recreation department and should arrive in about two weeks.
Lewis says the overall restroom/picnic facilities project is about 80-percent complete and should be finished in early spring.
Hammocks also have been placed at the site through an Eagle Scout project.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.