CRAMERTON, N.C. -- Cramerton is like so many other old mill towns that are trying to re-invent themselves, except they have one distinct advantage--Goat Island.
Ronnie Worley is now Mayor of Cramerton but he also grew up in the town and remembers what the forbidding island used to be like.
"It was always one of those places your parents told you, 'You don't want to be over on the island.'"
But now that once undeveloped island has been transformed into a new public park that was officially dedicated Thursday evening.
A new 181-foot-long bridge makes Goat Island now easily accessible from the Lakewood neighborhood.
The 30-acre island in the center of the South Fork of the Catawba River now features a playground, hiking trails and boat ramps.
"Probably it is going to open a lot of opportunities, especially for things like kayaking and things like that," said Tyler Ramsey, who was helping set up a kayak facility on the island.
From Goat Island you can look across the river to downtown Cramerton where the owners of small shops and restaurants are hoping the new island park brings new visitors to the town.
Kathleen Hover owns a steak restaurant on the street facing the river. "It is going to be phenomenal over time," she said. "We've been waiting almost four years for this project to come together. It has been a long haul for the town and the people."
Perry Fewell is now the defensive coach of the New York Giants but he remembers well growing up in Cramerton, and he remembers Goat Island.
"I looked at that island from across the river," said Fewell, who came back home to take part in the dedication of Goat Island Park.
"I always thought of Goat Island as Gilligan's Island because my imagination would leave me to believe there were different things on the island that I didn't want to encounter," Fewell said.
But looking around, he knew things had changed now for the better.
Beverly Lineberger put on a straw hat and rested under the shade of a tree. It was the Belmont native's first visit to what many hope will be a destination attraction.
"I think it is just a great thing that they have done," said Lineberger. "To give us more green space."
There will be an official grand opening on June 30 with games, vendors and live entertainment, capped off by a fireworks display that night.