A decade ago, a group of residents wanted to create a community gathering place in Woodbury.
Today, the Central Park facility functions as the hub of the city.
It was a unique concept 10 years ago, said Cheryl Hurst, a Woodbury City Council member at the time who championed efforts to get it built.
“They knew that we didn’t have a downtown, per se,” said Hurst, who now lives in Florida. “So it was trying to meet the needs of the community—to have a sense of place in the heart of Woodbury.”
On Saturday, Nov. 17, the city will mark the 10-year anniversary of Central Park. Washington County will also celebrate the anniversary of the R.H. Stafford Branch Library, named in honor of late County Commissioner Dick Stafford.
With the nearby Stonecrest senior housing complex, the YMCA, Lookout Ridge and the library, the facility has been “a hit,” Hurst said.
“I think it’s been well received from all aspects of the community, young and old,” she said.
Former Woodbury Mayor Bill Hargis admitted he was a skeptic when the idea first came up. As more groups got on board with the plans—including South Washington County Schools—he began to change his tune.
“I’m happy I did,” he said. “It’s exceeded my expectations.”
Woodbury was growing steadily at the time, which helped fund the facility through development fees, Hargis said, and the city has gotten plenty of value from what was put into it.
“It’s amazing how all the pieces came together,” said Hargis, who often brings his grandchildren to Lookout Ridge. “It was the right project at the right time.”
As staff and a citizens group were doing research on the proposal years ago, they kept coming back to one question, said Barry Johnson, former city administrator.
“How do you encourage a sense of community?” he said.
The idea for an indoor park was nice, but when the county library system wanted in, the complex started to take shape, Johnson said.
“That was really the thing that gave us the last element that we needed,” he said.
From the YMCA to Lookout Ridge to the library and Cups 'N Scoops, hundreds of thousands of people have come through the doors of the Central Park facility over the past decade. And that’s a safe estimate.
“That’s telling me it’s doing what we hoped it would do,” Johnson said. “It’s a crossroads for the community.”