It was an emotional Saturday for Nancy Bennett.

Eighteen years after her father, Abner Bennett, donated 4.3 acres of his land to the town of Ravenel, the park bearing his name finally was opened to the public.

"I had a crying moment," she said, noting they were tears of joy.

Abner Bennett donated the land to the town of Ravenel in 1992, three years before his death, with the caveat that the land be made into a park for local children.

Years before that, Abner Bennett's property was where children went to play. Bennett, however, wanted a more formal location for all the community's children to enjoy.

"It was my daddy's dream to have someplace for the children to play safe," Nancy Bennett said.

Creating the park was easier said than done. The town struggled to get the funding and permits necessary to clear the land and build the park's amenities.

The town budgeted $130,000 for the project in 2000.

Ravenel Mayor Opal Baldwin said she hopes projects like Bennett Park are a sign that the town is gaining prominence.

"We've been on the back burner for too long, and now it's our turn," she said.

Martha Miller Edwards, Abner's cousin, praised him for all the work he did on behalf of local children, from opening his yard to them to getting a Head Start program at Bethel AME Church in Ravenel.

"I feel that Mr. Bennett is very deserving and this is a memorial to him," she said.

Although Saturday was the park's grand opening, the town is hardly finished with it. Nancy Bennett said there are plans to add a football field, additional parking and water lines that would give the park permanent restroom facilities.

She also wants to use the park as a base for after-school programs and summer camps in the future.

"You gotta creep before you can walk," she said.

Reach Melvin Backman at 937-5550 or