Park to honor slain officers

About 25 Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers cleared land at Blythe Landing Park on Lake Norman recently for a memorial gardens and park that will honor two CMPD officers killed in the line of duty.

Officers Sean Clark, 34, and Jeff Shelton, 35, were fatally shot March 31, 2007, after they had responded to an unrelated domestic call at the Timber Ridge Apartments in east Charlotte.

Demeatrius Montgomery was found guilty Sept. 30 of two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without parole.

"The Ace & TJ Show" on radio station WNKS-FM (95.1) in Charlotte has led an effort since 2007 to build memorial parks honoring Clark and Shelton in the communities where they lived. The station raised about $40,000 toward building the parks; construction is with all-volunteer labor.

"It's really a volunteer effort extraordinaire," said Peter Cook, park operations superintendent for Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation.

The Officer Jeff Shelton Memorial Park opened in Locust in October 2007.

The Officer Sean Clark Memorial Park is set to open by late spring or early summer at Mecklenburg County-owned Blythe Landing Park. Clark's widow, Sherry, has alway enjoyed taking the couple's two young sons there, said Pete Herrick, executive producer of "The Ace & TJ Show."

"She was very excited over the idea," Herrick said.

Sean Clark lived with his family in Iron Station in eastern Lincoln County. "The Ace & TJ Show" and Lincoln County Parks and Recreation tried to secure property at Lake Norman in that county but hit repeated snags with a third-party corporation that has vast landholdings there, Herrick said.

The station turned to Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation to locate the memorial gardens and park in Blythe Landing, off N.C. 73. Mecklenburg County commissioners approved the site last fall, Herrick said, and CMPD officers cleared the land in early December.

The memorial gardens and park will be on nearly a quarter of an acre in Blythe Landing, Cook said. Work could begin when the ground thaws in late February and finish by late spring or early summer, Herrick said.

Although the site is named for Sean Clark, the gardens and park will honor both officers, much as the Locust park does, Herrick said.

The park will include a children's play area with a cabin playhouse, and gravel walkways leading from several directions to a granite monument. Another walkway to the monument will include engraved bricks donated by the community.

A pond-less water feature and places for cedar swings also are planned, as well as an area for a proposed bronze statue of deer; Sean Clark was an avid hunter, Herrick said. Several monuments and statues might be placed in the park eventually, Cook said.

"The Ace & TJ Show" is sponsoring the commemorative brick campaign. People can have a personalized engraved brick placed permanently in the park. The cost is a $35 donation for a brick with two lines of writing on it and $37 for a brick with three lines of writing.

Radio personality TJ said the project wouldn't happen without community donors and volunteer laborers.

"Most people are sure that radio personalities know how to build a park," he said - meaning it's the community that will get it done.