Pictured:George McMath cuts the ribbon on Saturday at the Onley public park that bears his name.
By Ted Shockley
The contemporary Eastern Shore has become a place of well-conceived public recreational areas that include parks and playgrounds.
The latest one, named for one of the Eastern Shore’s foremost patriarchs, was opened on Saturday in an Onley residential area.
Its name is the George N. McMath Park, and as a large, socially distanced crowd watched, McMath gave a quick speech and cut the ribbon.
“I know it’s a day of dedication, but I first thank you for all you’ve done,” said McMath.
For more than a decade, from Chincoteague to Onancock, and from Exmore to Cape Charles, towns have been turning valuable properties into public parks featuring numerous amenities.
Other communities, including Parksley, long have had popular public parks. Two years ago, Accomack County joined in, finishing a 35-acre park on the site of a former Joynes Neck Road sawmill.
McMath’s two daughters last year decided to give six residential lots in Onley to the town for a park. A son of Onley who lives nearby, the park was named in McMath’s honor.
McMath is a former member of the House of Delegates, once served as chair of the state Republican Party and owned the Eastern Shore News for 32 years. He sold the News, and 31 other papers, in 1989.
More recently, he was chairman for the fundraising campaign for new health centers in Onley and Eastville.
“I’m sure we have all benefitted from probably many of these,” said Park Committee Chairwoman Billye D. Custis of McMath’s pursuits. “He has raised millions of dollars.”
Mayor Matt Hart spoke, as did Mary Lou Podelco, McMath’s longtime assistant, and one of McMath’s daughters, Ginny McMath.
“I always say I have the best dad in the world, because I really do,” she said.
Several speakers thanked John Dennis for his tireless work on the park, which includes a large picnic shelter, grills, picnic tables, benches and a walking trail.
Playground equipment and other amenities, possibly including wireless broadband Internet, are planned.
McMath, known for his humility, thanked his wife, E.A., for her support and deflected any credit, instead talking about his fondness for Onley — and his desire to keep serving.
“I wish dearly that I could have done more,” he said.
McMath was also honored by the Accomack County Economic Development Authority in a ceremony on Friday afternoon at the Onley Town Center for his contributions to economic development on the Eastern Shore. In addition to building a newspaper business that at its height published 32 papers, he spearheaded the Eastern Shore Yacht and County Club founding and lead the capital campaigns for both the Onley Community Health Center, the Eastville Community Health Center, and the ESVA Chamber of Commerce Building to name a few.