2024 All-America City – Jacksonville, NC

Jacksonville, home to United States Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, boasts a stable population and a robust economy, marked by flourishing housing developments, small businesses, and franchises. Yet, fostering a sense of community and civic engagement poses unique challenges in a city where residents, particularly Marines, frequently rotate out every two years.

Recognizing these challenges, city leaders collaborated with the faith community to launch Jacksonville’s One City initiative. This endeavor aims to cultivate a compassionate and inclusive environment, fostering tolerance, belonging, and civility among all residents. The initiative encourages collective action towards building unity and cohesion, driving Jacksonville toward continuous improvement and success. 

Uptown Development & Sports Complex 

The City of Jacksonville, in collaboration with Onslow County and Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development, conducted a study to identify businesses attracting people to the community and pinpoint weaknesses leading residents to travel elsewhere for services and recreational opportunities. 

One notable outcome was the identification of recreation and sports tourism as critical sectors for improvement. This led to the city purchasing 400 acres for local recreation. To maximize the potential of this expansive parcel, the city convened a team of experts and engaged in robust community consultations to develop a comprehensive plan. 

Community engagement for this planning process was extensive, involving meetings, surveys, and town halls to gauge community needs. Resident input revealed a large population of youth participating in traveling sports programs who are unable to compete locally due to a lack of recreational facilities. The engagement of the Marine Corps population revealed a lack of quality meeting space for their annual Marine Ball festivities.

Community input resulted in a plan for a multi-use facility that will include indoor recreation space, conference and meeting space, and special events space. Additionally, the uptown development concept will incorporate mixed-use development with housing, retail shops, restaurants, and office space. The development will also feature a soccer complex with nine fields, open space, designated passive park areas, wetland recovery spaces with boardwalks, outdoor recreation opportunities, and an outdoor amphitheater capable of seating approximately 7,500 people. 

Comprehensive Youth Engagement 

Jacksonville supports youth engagement through four primary projects, with each providing an opportunity for community input and involvement.  

  1. The New River YMCA offers diverse programs like after-school activities and sports, aiming to foster youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Through an innovative funding partnership, the city, county, Board of Education, and the State of North Carolina have developed a plan to build a new facility, including an aquatics center, to better serve the community.  
  2. The Boys and Girls Club expanded to an underserved neighborhood in Jacksonville, repurposing a community center with city and YMCA support. Launched in 2023, the new location offers mentorship and exploration opportunities, aiming to engage local youth and empower them in national programs.
  3. The Chill Zone, part of Jacksonville’s Downtown Renovation project, aims to provide a dedicated space for teens from Jacksonville and surrounding areas to gather and interact. Programs will be designed by and for teens, with city staff acting as mentors rather than directors. The facility will feature a performance stage, café, arcade, E-sports stations, and more, creating a centralized hub supported by the city and community. Open daily after school, it will host Jacksonville Youth Council meetings and offer free transit passes to members for easy access.
  4.  New River Institutes at Sturgeon City offers a summer program for local high schoolers. Taught by local educators, it covers marine biology, sciences, safety, and arts. Stemming from efforts to restore the New River, the program teaches environmental stewardship and community collaboration, aiming to inspire future leaders in conservation and community involvement. 

One Place Child Advocacy Center
One Place, formerly known as the Onslow County Partnership for Children, is a nonprofit dedicated to ending child abuse by connecting families with resources and programs. One Place partners with community and government organizations to improve the lives of children and families by connecting them with high-quality resources for childcare, early education, and child abuse prevention and intervention.  More directly, One Place partners with the City of Jacksonville Police Department and with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Department to provide much-needed services to the victims of child abuse.  

Over 25 years, One Place has positively impacted the lives of children and families in Onslow County, providing support services and high-quality childcare. However, as the population of Onslow County has continued to grow, so has the need for children and family support services. In order to serve the growing population, One Place recognizes the need to grow their team and their facilities. To make this possible, the organization worked together with several local, regional, and state partners to create a funding plan to build a new $25 million facility. This community support underscores the dedication to fighting child abuse and supporting all children and families. The new facility, located next to the Jacksonville Commons Recreation Complex and Fire Department Station 4, will enhance community pride and cohesion.


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