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Portal Centennial Park dedicated, officially opens

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Portal Centennial Park dedicated, officially opens

A granite marker honoring Portal's educators is one of many memorial markers and benches paying tribute to leaders who have helped make Portal a successful and pleasant community.

    About 100 people gathered Saturday morning for the Portal Centennial Park dedication, admiring the unique design and complimentary landscaping that transformed an overgrown wooded area into an attractive addition to the town.
    The project began two years ago when the Portal Heritage Society planned special events to commemorate the town's 100th anniversary. The creation of the Centennial Park and a historical play were two featured events that drew interest from people all over the county, not just from Portal.
    Children played along the concrete and brick pathways as adults wandered among the memorial benches and monuments, reading names of those who have made their marks in Portal's history.
    Then Dr. Frank Saunders, Portal Heritage Society member, asked the crowd to draw closer to hear remarks about the town's history and the reason for the park.
    He introduced Portal Mayor Larry Motes, who spoke  next.
    "This year has been a wonderful year in the city of Portal," he said. "We celebrated out centennial anniversary with a centennial play in March .... which was a very historical rendering of our past.
    "We have  tried to build something that will be here 100 years from now," he said. "I personally want to thank all of you for your effort."
    The park features several circular areas, the first of which is dedicated to Portal's teachers.
    "We have some wonderful teachers," Motes said. "Portal school is the most important institute in our town, aside from the churches."
    He announced the plans for construction of a new Portal Middle/High School, which is expected to be completed by 2010.
    He praised the park, which is located just inside the northernmost side of the town's city limits.
    "Portal means gateway or entrance," he said. When people enter the county from that side, " Portal is the first community you come to, and it is a wonderful thing for people to see what people of Bulloch County are all about."
    The second of the three circles is dedicated to Portal area veterans, and the third circle is dedicated to the founders of the  town " and have made this town what it is," Motes said. "This town is made of people who don't mind giving the time to help others.
    N. Luree Bowen, member of the Portal Centennial Park Committee, spoke next, acknowledging several who played a part in creating the park.
    "The idea of the Portal Centennial Park was conceived more than two yeas ago," she said. "We started that project without land or funding."
    But the Bulloch County Board of Education deeded the triangular parcel of land to the town, and then a mailing campaign to Portal school alumni was more than successful.
    "We were surprised and overwhelmed" by the response, Bowen said. That, added to two grants, one from Keep Bulloch Beautiful, made the park possible.
    Bowen thanked a long list of people who either gave money, supplies, and/or labor to help build the park.
    "This event represented the collaborative effort of Portal .... and many friends of the park," she said. "We are indeed grateful to everyone who gave time, money and labor."
    Saunders honored the teachers who helped Portal be the town it is, and recalled a handful of teachers who taught him as he went through the grades in Portal schools.
    Portal's educational heritage began with classes taught upstairs above W. E. Parson's General Store, he said.
    George Parker, former Portal principal, spoke next, reminiscing about his years in Portal, and reminding listeners that several " attorneys, judges, physicians, professors, engineers, generals and others in the Armed Forces, CPA's, professional athletes, master farmers and owners of major businesses and establishments" came from the schools of Portal.
    Portal Heritage Society President Jan S. Haggins spoke next, inviting visitors to attend a reception in the Portal City Hall, and asked them to be sure to view the " Wall of Memories" inside the city hall.
    As the crowd dispersed and made their ways to the reception, several Portal leaders greeted friends and residents as people expressed admiration for the park's pleasant atmosphere and attractive design.
    The park " has far surpassed anything we have ever thought of," said Portal Heritage Society member Thomas M. Anderson, who also served on the Centennial Park Committee.
    The park also features a sculpture that echoes the town's agricultural history as well as several circular concrete picnic tables for visitor's enjoyment.

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