NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- King-Lincoln Park was originally known as Pinkett's Beach.
William Ward Pinkett Sr., a tailor in Newport News, Virginia, purchased the land and transformed it into a place where parishioners could perform baptisms and members of the community could enjoy the summer sun. Parishioners were predominately African-Americans, so before the civil rights movement, this beach was very important to the community.
Eventually the land was sold to the city and renamed Lincoln Park, and later King-Lincoln Park in order to honor both President Abraham Lincoln and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As the years have continued on, the beach has received less attention than it deserves, so local citizens, the city and Sailors assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) are teaming up to restore this historic beach to its former glory.
"This used to be a beach the locals used to go to, so it would be nice to be able to see where this beach eventually ends up," said Lt. Cmdr. Lee Hatton, a chaplain aboard George Washington. "As far as the Sailors, I'm convinced that when you give back, it makes you feel better. It's not just a matter of what you give, but what you get in return. It might seem like 'oh, we are just going to clean a beach,' but it turns out better because when it's all done and you look at the beach and all the bags of trash, you think to yourself 'wow, I was part of that.'"
Cleaning up King-Lincoln Park is the first of many community relations (COMRELS) projects for George Washington Sailors in Newport News. The ship changed homeports, Aug. 4, and the Sailors wanted to show the community that they care.
"This is my first COMREL," said Lt. Joey Zerra. "I figured it would be a good chance for the ship to get integrated into the City of Newport News as we transition here. It helps show that the ship is here to help the community and not just take up 2,000 parking spots."
Members from the community were also there helping clean up this once prestigious beach as they attempt to reestablish it to the community.
"When I heard Sailors were pulling in I just thought to myself, this is it. We can actually restore this beach," said Earnest Thompson. "Working with the Navy to make that happen has to me been a beautiful and humbling experience because I want the Sailors to be able to utilize this beach too, because it's so close to where they are."
Not only is the community trying to restore the beach, they are also trying to change the name from King-Lincoln Park back to Pinkett's Beach.
"We are trying to get it renamed to Pinkett's beach, the original founder," said Thompson. "Pinkett built this beach for us, for the black citizens, and so from the 30s, 40s, 50s and the 60s this beach was for us and we took care of it. It was beautiful. I can remember as a little boy going clamming, fishing, crabbing and swimming and just having all kinds of fun out here. After the civil rights movement, the city of Newport news just stopped taking care of it. I just want everyone to see how beautiful this place can be; how it once was."
The chaplains have partnered with the mayor's office in Newport News to keep a better relationship with the Newport News community and remain involved in projects to restore hidden gems within the city. Hatton said the goal for the future is to provide Sailors with multiple opportunities each week in an attempt to help build a form of community during the four years that George Washington will be homeported in Newport News shipyard.
To get involved in the Newport News COMRELs contact the command religious ministries department or look for all-hands emails with information.
For more information, visit http://www.navy.mil, http://www.facebook.com/usnavy, or http://www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.