Organizers of the annual Stewbilee festival attended Thursday’s city Urban Redevelopment Agency meeting to express their concerns about proposed improvements to Mary Ross Park.
Teeple Hill, chairman of the Stewbilee committee for the Brunswick Kiwanis Club, said his organization has held the event at the park for the past 20 years, but the annual festival could be permanently disbanded depending on where some of the proposed work is built.
“Every change creates obstacles for setup,” he said. “When you start putting things in wide-open spaces, it kills the event. It will probably end Stewbilee for us.”
Proceeds from the event help support the Boys & Girls Club.
“We raise a lot of money for the Boys & Girls Club,” he said.
Some of the proposed work includes the addition of a splash pad, fountain, climbing wall and more bathrooms.
LaRon Bennett, chairman of the redevelopment agency, showed photographs of the 2018 festival and where some of the proposed improvements would be located. He said a study will determine where some of the changes to the park would be located.
Hill said festival organizers were able to work around the playground already constructed at the park.
“Where the playground is right now, we were able to incorporate it,” he said.
But he said the Kiwanis Club will need to add more tents, depending on the number of participants serving stew at the event, and that could be an issue.
He didn’t disagree, however, when Bennett said the playground saw significant use during the festival and CoastFest, the other big event at the park, and parents loved it. Bennett said the goal is not to impact the big annual events at the park.
“We don’t want to do anything to what you want to do,” he said. “We want to advance it. I don’t think the plans would be untenable.”
Bennett said the climbing wall “is not a given” and based on estimates “it will have a minimal impact for Stewbilee.”
“The restrooms and other stuff are still up in the air,” he said.
But Hill said he still has concerns about some of the proposed plans for the park.
“It will have a huge impact on us,” Hill said.
Bennett suggested a future meeting with festival organizers to discuss their concerns in more detail.
After the Kiwanis Club members left the meeting, Mayor Cornell Harvey said there has to be a way to address their concerns. He also pointed out that the park is only used several times a year for big events.
“It seems Stewbilee is driving what happens at Mary Ross Park,” he said. “An entity wants design input for one or two events a year.”
He said the organizers for CoastFest have expressed a willingness to resolve the issues.
“I think they should work it out,” he said. “We can do things together.”
Agency members also discussed the selection process for the architectural company that would perform the improvements at the park.
Bennett expressed a desire for local businesses to make the improvements. He said the firm selected should have the qualifications to perform the work, plus ideas for the design of the park.
“We need to see their design focus for the park,” he said. “We need a process to review the architect.”