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Divided vote decides Pocomoke basketball court name

The basketball courts under renovation at Pocomoke Middle School will be known as Warrior Courts at Stephen H. Long Memorial Park following a split County Commissioners vote last week.

Worcester gov center

Worcester County Government Center
File photo

By Charlene Sharpe, Associate Editor

The basketball courts being renovated at Pocomoke Middle School will be known as Warrior Courts at Stephen H. Long Memorial Park.

The Worcester County Commissioners last week voted 4-3 to select Warrior Courts at Stephen H. Long Memorial Park from a list of six proposed names for the updated courts, which should be completed by the end of the month. The decision was an attempt at a compromise, as popular name options included “Stephen Handy Long Memorial Recreation Park” and “Warrior Park.”

Kelly Rados, the county’s director of recreation and parks, presented the name options during the May 21 meeting of the commissioners. She said that based on the county’s naming policy, priority should be given to names carrying geographical, historical or cultural significance. Names submitted for the courts included Stephen Handy Long Memorial Recreation Park, Warrior Courts at Stephen H. Long Memorial Park, Pocomoke Proud Park, Sunshine Park, Friendship Park and Warrior Park. Commissioner Caryn Abbott made a motion to name the courts Warrior Park. 

“I just want to say that the park is for the children,” Abbott said. “That was our goal the whole time, to make something special for them. I think we’ve accomplished that with what the plan is for the park and now we need them to take ownership of it and I believe they will. That’s why I chose Warrior Park, because we are warriors in Pocomoke.”

Commissioner Diana Purnell disagreed and said that Stephen Handy Long Memorial Recreation Park would pay homage to Long, the educator who served as supervisor of Worcester County’s African American schools and was murdered in 1921.  

“He gave his life for the kids,” she said, adding that naming the park in his honor was in line with the county’s naming policy. 

Commissioner Ted Elder acknowledged the difference of opinion between Abbott and Purnell and suggested one of the other names on the list, Warrior Courts at Stephen H. Long Memorial Park—a name that was submitted by Pocomoke Middle School Principal Melissa Freistat—as a compromise. 

Marvin Jones, a Salisbury resident with ties to the Pocomoke community, told the commissioners he supported naming the park solely in honor of Long. He said research showed that Long was a person of historical significance who had made major contributions to the community. He said he was worried that the proposed compromise name was confusing. 

“I think you diminish the contributions of Professor Long,” Jones said. 

Brendal Jones said she wanted the park named in honor of Long, as many people didn’t know his story and weren’t even aware that after his death there had been an African American school in Pocomoke named for him. 

After lengthy discussion, a motion to approve the name Warrior Courts at Stephen H. Long Memorial Park passed 4-3, with Purnell and Commissioners Eric Fiori and Joe Mitrecic opposed.

Area residents are invited to join the Worcester County Commissioners and school officials when they cut the ribbon on the new basketball courts and park at Pocomoke Middle School on June 4 at 1:30 p.m. Worcester County Recreation and Parks professionals contracted with Surface Solutions, LongFence, and Musco to install new fencing, a basketball court and associated components, and a “mini pitch” with lights. The basketball court and mini pitch are comprised of two basketball courts that can also be used as one basketball court and one soccer pitch. The park is recommended for children and adults and is open to the public outside of school hours and when organized programming is not taking place.

This story appears in the May 30, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.