Land Donation Could Lead To New Cleveland Community Park

Elizabeth Booker “Beth” Lawson (pictured) and her husband, Dewey Lawson, appeared before Johnston County Commissioners on Monday. The Lawson’s want to gift a 12.7 acre tract of land in the Cleveland community, valued at $336,000 to the county, if the county agrees to place a community park on the property. Photo

A local couple wants to give Johnston County land for the future home of a new Cleveland area park.  Elizabeth Booker Lawson and her husband Dewey Lawson appeared before Johnston County Commissioners on Monday offering to donate 12.7 acres of land they own for recreational use.

The property is located at the intersection of Polenta and Matthews Road and was recently appraised at $336,000.

Mrs. Lawson is the daughter of the late B.W. “Putt” Booker (1905-1986) and Ruth Neal Booker (1911-1992).  Mr. Booker, a native of Cleveland, was raised in the Oakland Presbyterian Church and owned and operated farms in the Cleveland area. He also held positions representing V.C. Fertilizer and Gold Leaf Tobacco Warehouse. He also served on the Smithfield Town Council.

Mrs. Booker was a public school teacher at Cleveland School.

The Lawson’s envision the site being turned into a public community park for families of all ages, something for toddlers to seniors to enjoy.  Among the proposed amenities would include a play area for children, sheltered tables for eating and games, seats for gathering, resting and conversation, and paths for walking, riding and jogging.

This 12.7 acre triangle-shaped wooded lot at the intersection of Polenta Road and Matthews Road was recently appraised at $336,000. The couple that owns the lot wants to donate it to Johnston County if leaders will agree to place a community park on the site.

Mrs. Lawson said while one or two athletic fields may be acceptable, depending on the design, she does not want the entire property made into ball fields, rather a community park that everyone can enjoy. She wants to donate the land to leave a Booker family legacy for the Cleveland community.  “I’d like to see the Cleveland community enjoy this,” Mrs. Lawson said.

The couple said there are no immediate family parks in the area. They said the county could seek a matching state grant up to $500,000 to help with any future development.

Commissioner Allen Mims questions Mrs. Lawson about another tract of land she owns at the intersection.  Lawson said the 69 acre tract would likely be sold in the near future for residential development.  Lawson said she had no plans to develop the property personally rather to sell it to a contractor for them to build out.

Chairman Jeff Carver asked County Manager Rick Hester to begin researching the offer and report back on his findings.