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The NC Recre8'er - is the Blog for NC Recreation and Parks Professionals. We will feature posts from NCRPA members and staff about all the latest news, insights and tips in our field and around the state. Topics will include but are not limited to: Health and Wellness, Outdoor Recreation, Athletics, Advocacy, Aquatics, Therapeutic Recreation, Special Events, Marketing, Parks and Greenways, Cultural Resources and more! If you are interested in being a guest blogger please contact Matt at NCRPA or 919-832-5868. The opinions of The NC Recre8'er (NCRPA) blog contributors don't necessarily reflect the editorial position of North Carolina Recreation and Park Association as a whole.


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50 at 50 | May 25

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Thursday, May 24, 2018
This is the last #50at50 park blog and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting out to visit so many “new to me” parks during the past year. I was super excited when I received an invitation to attend the grand opening of the Bryan Multi-Sports Complex in Goldsboro that was held on April 23rd. I have been holding this post to complete this series as it brings me back to the beginning of my love of parks. 

I grew up in the Rosewood Community of Wayne County and the parks I visited as a kid were in Goldsboro. My first park and recreation job was in Goldsboro as the director of the Fun Bunch Day Camp. This camp is still offered today with some of the same activities I helped provide like bowling and swimming. Today, I am excited to share with you the newest park in Goldsboro, the Bryan Multi-Sports Complex.

Goldsboro is the home of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (SJAFB) and the Bryan Multi-Sports Complex is a unique partnership between the city and the base to provide recreational activities. During the grand opening, the Honorable John Henderson, Assistant Secretary of U.S. Air Force Installations, spoke of how this is the first joint P4 partnership between a military base and its home community. This complex will serve as the model for other communities. The 62-acre park was constructed and paid for by the city, with a $3 million loan from Wayne County government and a $3 million voter-approved bond. The development was made possible following a 20-year lease agreement between the city and the U.S. Air Force, which allows the city to develop and maintain the site on base property. As part of the agreement, the city will be paying for a 2,500-square-foot addition to the base's main fitness center.

How do two agencies like a local parks and recreation department and the U.S. Air Force share a facility? Some examples include daily PT, military ceremonies, overflow parking for large events on base, and youth soccer tournaments that will generate tourist spending. As you drive into the park, the first thing I noticed was a plane mounted on a pedestal and this is no ordinary plane. It is a 4E Phantom that was assigned to and remained a part of the 334th Eagles Fighter Squadron at SJAFB from 1977 to 1990 and was the last operational F-4E to serve at the base. The natural area under the plane will soon be designed to look like a soccer ball.

When you partner with the U.S. Air Force, it is only natural to have a flyover by two F-15E Strike Eagles as part of your dedication. Park visitors will have the opportunity to see Air Force fighter jets fly over, as part of daily routines, exercises, and missions. Even though I grew up getting to experience the rumble and thrill of jets as they pass overhead, I’m excited visitors to this complex will get to experience it as well.

The Bryan Multi-Sport Complex has eight multi-sports fields, including two with artificial turf, a concessions stand, walking trails, restrooms, and lots of paved parking. Future additions include a playground, covered picnic shelters and a splash pad. The next time you are heading east, I recommend exiting the Highway 70 bypass and stopping a few moments to enjoy the jets flying overhead and check out this park. More information can be found online at

So what is next? Stay tuned for a special announcement because it really is about a Lifetime of Discovery!

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Tags:  50at50  Goldsboro  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | May 18

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Thursday, May 17, 2018
Many years ago my family held a gathering in a historic home at Cedarock Park in Alamance County and since I was not able to attend, I took the opportunity to explore this park on my own. Established in 1975, this 500-acre park has some very unique features and creatures. The park is on the site of the historic farm of John and Polly Garrett. From the information signs I read, they established their homestead on this property in 1830 and the farm has been restored to the way it was in the late 1800s. The farm was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1980.

While exploring the farm site I found the original home the Garrett’s built while the main house was being built, a building that was once the post office, a corn crib, several buildings used for farm equipment and carriage storage, and the outhouse, while not operational, was in better shape than some I’ve used in the past. And what would a restored farm be without a few sheep, goats and a team of mules? Cedarock park has them all!

In addition the farm, the park offers six miles of hiking trails, six miles of equestrian trails, two disc golf courses with a total of 36 holes for play, two fishing ponds, a picturesque waterfall over an old mill dam, picnic shelters and gazebos, a basketball court, a volleyball court, a playground, canoe and kayak rentals, camping, and ample field space for open play. The even add in a third disc golf course to host tournaments.

So what about the historic house where my family gathered? It is now the visitors center and location of the offices for the Alamance County Parks & Recreation staff. Not a bad place to have an office. If you are looking for a unique experience, this is a great place to put on your list. For more information on Cedarock Park visit

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Tags:  50at50  Alamance County  parks  Recreation 

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50 at 50 | May 11

Updated: Friday, May 11, 2018
Today I share with you the 48th “new to me” park visit in this series of 50 at 50. Earlier this week on a gorgeous afternoon, I made my way to Mayo Park and Lake which is part of the Person County Recreation, Arts & Parks. Opened in 1998 it consists of 120 acres of parkland and a 3000-acre lake. A boat ramp is provided in conjunction with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the afternoon I was there 4 or 5 trucks with empty trailers were in the parking lot. While down at the boat ramp, I saw a banner promoting the bass fishing tournaments held 4 times between March and June.

In addition to multiple picnic shelters and playgrounds, I found a few hiking trails. One trail had what looked like pages from a book displayed that allows users to read a story as they go along the trail. Following the end of the story, there were a few displays encouraging users to be active by trying garden yoga. Another trail let me find multiple tee boxes and baskets on the Sasquatch Disc Golf Course. Be sure to the check out their signs in the pics below. The park rents kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddle boards, has a fishing pole loaner program and offers summer movies in the amphitheater. The amphitheater is a popular location for weddings and the community room in the Environmental Education Community Center is a popular rental location for parties, weddings, family reunions, and community events. In another area of the park, I found an area that houses 10 horseshoe courts where they host tournaments. The courts are near the campground that includes cabins, along with tent and RV sites and bathhouses.

Before leaving, I had the chance to chat with Park Ranger Jeffery Streets about the programs offered at the park. He is a parks and recreation graduate from NC Central and grew up in Person County. I have to agree with his assessment that “Mayo Park and Lake is one of the best-kept secrets around”. Now that I’ve shared the secret, I encourage you to visit if you are in the area.

For more information on Mayo Park and Lake visit

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Tags:  50at50  lake  parks  Person County  recreation 

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50 at 50 | May 4

Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2018
Remember the NC Connect Bond from March 2016? This statewide bond initiative included one-time funding of $3 million for parks and recreation grants to benefit children and/or veterans with disabilities for local park projects. On my visit to Massey Hill Park which sits on just over 15 acres in Fayetteville, I got to see a completed project just before the grand opening was held on April 14th. With $250,000 in funding from the bond was used to update the baseball field behind the community center with a rubberized surface. In past years, parks and recreation staff used temporary rubber mats that stretched along the base paths to accommodate play for their Buddy Baseball program.

In addition to funds from the NC Connect Bond, the citizens of Fayetteville passed a $35 million dollar bond referendum in March of 2016 to support this effort and the city received a $40,000 grant from the MLB’s Baseball Tomorrow Fund. This summer, the Buddy Baseball program will be enjoying a newly universally accessible installed field made entirely of a flat, rubberized surface, as well as upgrades to the fencing, dugouts and access paths leading to the field.

After my visit, I had a chance to talk to Parks & Recreation Director Michael Gibson and he told me how the outfield fence had been extended to 125 feet versus the standard 110-115 feet. This additional space in the outfield has created an additional mini field to be used for playing other sports like soccer, kickball, and hockey. I loved how adding a little extra in the outfield will allow for programming after the baseball season is over. The Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks and Recreation Department works with the two VA hospitals in the area to provide programs through the Wounded Warrior program to provide programs for adults.

The other new feature at the park includes an accessible splash pad and playground. I see the park getting a great use following games on the field and by citizens in the community and students at the school next door. After having a little fun taking selfies at the splash pad, I explored the grounds of the center and found a unique display of hanging 2-liter bottles that had been converted to planters.

From the online articles, pictures, and videos I’ve discovered following the grand opening of this facility, it is one that will be loved and enjoyed for years to come while providing programs for kids and adults! For more information on the Massey Hill Park visit

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Tags:  50at50  Fayetteville  parks  recreation  Wounded Warriors 

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YPN Blog: May 2018

Posted By Chris Allen, Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation, Thursday, May 3, 2018
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2018

The beginning of each year highlights National Mentoring Month, when we applaud the dedicated individuals that give their time and experience to benefit others.  After all, mentoring offers so many professional and personal benefits for people of all ages and backgrounds. According to the National Mentoring Partnership, of individuals that obtain mentors during any point in their professional careers, 90% are interested in becoming a mentor themselves and 130% are likely to be placed in leadership roles within their organization.  By preparing young professionals and advanced professionals alike, mentorship helps develop the future workplace talent pipeline. Mentors can help their mentees with their professional careers and assist with their workplace skills, so it is important that mentees sure their selected mentor has their best interest in mind when pursuing a mentor-mentee relationship.

Before you start having recurring nightmares of Farnsworth Bentley holding Sean “Diddy” Combs’ umbrella, mentors aren't just for reality television stars. A mentor is an individual that helps guide your development professionally and sometimes personally. In an increasingly competitive job market, a good mentor might be just what you need - whether you're a recent graduate or an experienced professional in your field and looking to make the next move. Before making that move, consider why you want a mentor. Mentors can be useful whether you are stagnate at your position or in a transitional period. A mentoring relationship should not be entered for its own sake. When looking for a mentor, don’t forget to consider finding one in your existing network. There are plenty of ways to find a mentor, but through your network on- and offline can sometimes be the best avenue. Once you have selected a mentor, make sure you are upfront about your goals and how those goals will be measured. It is important to develop the right mentor-mentee chemistry to ensure a successful relationship. As a reminder, a good mentor could be the catalyst that takes you to your desired position, so maintaining a good relationship could save stress to both parties.

So, to the professionals that are searching for mentors, be sure to take your time with your selection. It could be the difference between just working for a department or one day potentially becoming the department director.

Meet the Author

Chris “Ross” Allen originally from Wake Forest, NC, obtained his Bachelor’s in Athletic Administration from North Carolina Central University and his Master’s in Sports Management from the same university.  Chris has worked for the town of Wake Forest as Maintenance Specialist and the City of Durham as a Recreation Specialist. He is currently the Recreation Coordinator for the City of Rocky Mount. Chris is currently a board member for the National Recreation and Park Ethnic Minority Society while also serving as a Region Chair with the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association.

Chris can be reached at or 252.972.1170


If you are interested in being a guest author for the YPN Blog, please contact Nicole at or 919-832-5868.

Tags:  mentor  mentorship  professional development  young professionals  ypn 

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50 at 50 | April 27

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, April 27, 2018
During my visit to Hope Mills Municipal Park, I found lots of opportunities for recreation.  The park includes the community center with a gym, meeting rooms, a game room and the office for the parks and recreation department.  Following a brief visit with staff, I set out to explore the park which opened in 1981.  

Having been in the car for most of the day, I was looking an opportunity to stretch my legs and finding the 1.8-mile greenway around the park was the perfect way to explore all that was available.  Right across from where I parked the car, was the dog park with areas for large and small dogs.  Then I passed the baseball/softball fields prepped for upcoming games.  Next, I heard the bouncing of a basketball during a pick-up game at the outdoor court.  I met numerous citizens of varying ages and abilities using the greenway.  One lady who I spoke with briefly told me she was recovering from knee replacement and was glad the weather was better so she could get out and walk every day even if it was at a slow pace.  

After passing a picnic shelter, I heard the laughter and excited squeals of children as I neared the playground.  The kids were running and moving to the various pieces of equipment while the adults in this area were pretty quiet and most of them appeared to be talking with someone or looking at their phones.  As I continued on the greenway, I heard a ‘swish’ sound and found the skatepark where four young men were practicing their skills as they went down, up and over the ramps and apparatus.  The sounds varied from excitement for a trick well done to a thud and groans for a trick gone wrong.  

From here, I stayed on the greenway and got to explore other town services that share borders with the park.  First was the library, then the fire department, followed by the police department and finally town hall before I returned to the community center. In the parking lot that serves many of these town services was a food truck rodeo with a variety of offerings to be enjoyed.  

Before returning to my car, I visited the Armed Forces Veterans Memorial, a place of reverence and respect.  It was the perfect way to end my visit at the park.  For more information on the programs offered at Hope Mills Municipal Park visit

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Tags:  50at50  Hope Mills  Parks  Recreation 

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50 at 50 | April 20

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, April 20, 2018
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2018
There are not many parks that have a beach and I recently found one at Luther Britt Park while visiting Lumberton. The 142-acre park opened in 1986 and has 35 acres of water. The clubhouse overlooking the beach area is a focal point of the park. While closed for swimming on the day I visited, I was able to see that when they open for the summer season they will also offer paddle boats for rental. With 2 lakes on the property, I can imagine one is used more for the active activities and one is for fishing. During my 3 mile walk on the trails, I stopped to enjoy the view and a little porch swinging lakeside.

Located right off I-95, I would agree with’s assessment that Luther Britt Park is Lumberton's Best Kept Secret. So how did I find it? I stopped by the Lumberton Parks & Recreation office and a photo of the beach and clubhouse caught my eye. After talking to Parks & Recreation Director Tim Taylor, I knew I had to visit. The park has an 18-hole disc golf course and one of the baskets is on an island in the lake. From the 17th tee box, the disc travels across the water. I asked about “lost discs” and they have a scuba group come out and clean up periodically. I also found out what happened at the park as a result of Hurricane Matthew. The park received 20 acres of water and the clubhouse was under water for 1 week. Yes, I confirmed I heard that right.

The park looked to be mostly recovered on the day I visited. While walking around, I saw several playgrounds, picnic shelters and lots of picnic tables under the trees. In addition to kids playing at the water’s edge and adults fishing, some turtles were sunning on a log. An amphitheater overlooking the water was getting a new roof compliments of the local Kiwanis Club.

The next time I’m traveling along I-95 and need a break, Luther Britt Park is where I’ll be heading! For more information on Luther Britt Park visit

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Tags:  50at50  Lumberton  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | April 13

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, April 13, 2018
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2018
This week’s park visit took me to Pembroke, NC, the 2017 Small Town of the Year as awarded by the NC Rural Center. Located in Robeson County which is along our state’s southern border, Pembroke Parks and Recreation offers a lot for their just under 3000 citizens in some creative ways. All of their facilities are located at the Pembroke Recreation Complex including the parks and recreation office.

The Pembroke Recreation Complex opened in 2008. This complex houses fields for soccer, sand volleyball courts, outdoor basketball courts, a walking trail, 4 baseball/softball fields, batting cages, and a picnic shelter. The scorer’s tower in the hub of the 4 field complex houses a concession stand, restrooms and the parks and recreation director’s office. Pembroke has no indoor facilities and this is where the creativity and partnerships come into play. The department partners with the Boys & Girls Club and the school system for use of gym space, while senior programs are hosted by the housing authority and fire department. This was the first time I had heard of programs being hosted at a fire department. After learning about this, I thought about how wonderful it is that unlikely partnerships are allowing services to be provided.

I visited this park while many schools were observing spring break. There were children of various ages playing on the playground while parents and grandparents watched. The walking trail was being used and people were enjoying the park benches throughout the park. It made me smile to see a child riding his bike and so many people enjoying themselves at the park on what was a beautiful day.

For more information on Pembroke Parks & Recreation visit

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Tags:  50at50  parks  Pembroke  recreation 

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YPN Blog: April 2018

Posted By KP Kilpatrick, Wake Forest Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, Thursday, April 5, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Did you know April is National Volunteer Month? A 2012 Huffington Post article highlights that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 64 million people volunteered at least once between September 2010 and September 2011. The Corporation for National and Community Service says it has collectively dedicated 8.1 billion hours to a wide variety of organizations. That donated time and expertise is valued at $173 billion. Volunteers are essential to organizations of all shapes and sizes, and, as young professionals, we often have the opportunity to either volunteer ourselves or lead volunteers at our organizations.

Volunteering opportunities offered by local Parks & Recreation Departments help connect the departments to the surrounding communities. When citizens volunteer their time, it helps enhance the support needed to make recreation and athletic programs operate successfully. Whether it’s a coach, a dance instructor, a referee, or a tutor—volunteers truly help your department thrive. Volunteers can also help you with strategic planning. They help by providing feedback and offering new ideas. Additionally, volunteers help grow the amount of participants in each of your programs. Most volunteers may have children or family members that want to partake in leisure activities. As you know, “word of mouth” is the one of the best and free marketing tools! Also, when people volunteer it empowers them and gives them a sense of accomplishment. Volunteering allows people to give back to their community and support a great cause. Recognizing volunteers for their participation through an awards banquet or luncheon is an awesome concept to keep them committed to their role. Without volunteers, several programs operated by local Parks & Recreation Departments, specifically ones with small budgets, wouldn’t be able to happen due to lack of manpower. Volunteerism and Parks & Recreation go hand-in-hand and will always be a useful concept to help your community thrive!

So this April make sure you thank the great volunteers who support your department or take some time to give back and volunteer yourself.


Did you know that volunteers with your department are eligible to become members of Local Government Federal Credit Union and get the NCRPA Visa® Check Card? This card was created exclusively for volunteers and employees of parks and recreation departments across North Carolina.

Each time you use your NCRPA Visa® Check Card, LGFCU donates 50 percent of its share of the net merchant's fee directly to programs sponsored by NCRPA. Money generated by using the debit card helps fund scholarships and professional development opportunities for NCRPA members, marketing efforts for the profession, and local community projects.

Learn more here:

Meet the Author

Fontae “KP” Kilpatrick, originally from Kinston, NC, obtained his Bachelor's in Recreation Administration from North Carolina A&T State University and his Masters in Sports Management from Middle Tennessee State University. KP has worked for the City of Lexington as the Athletic Director and City of Thomasville as the Recreation Center Director. He is currently the Athletics Program Coordinator for the Town of Wake Forest. KP is also a member of the Local Government Federal Credit Union Advisory Council and a previous member on the Davidson County Parks and Recreation Commission. KP resides in Raleigh with his wife, Jazmine, and their three-year-old son, Harlan.

KP can be reached at or 919-435-9457.

If you are interested in being a guest author for the YPN Blog, please contact Nicole at or 919-832-5868.

Tags:  community involvement  lgfcu  volunteer month  volunteers  young professionals  ypn 

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50 at 50 | April 6

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Wednesday, April 4, 2018

As someone who doesn’t play disc golf, I’m always amazed by the disc golf courses I see in parks. And the one still under construction at Jacob Fork Park in Newton is no exception. On a recent visit, I had the opportunity to explore the course with Assistant Director Carol Stiles. Locally $27,000 was raised to support this course through hole sponsorships. This certainly adds variety and fun to the course with the names chosen by the sponsor. Some of my favorites include Holy Me Shivers, Mounded, On Golden Pond (in honor of Parks & Recreation Director Sandra Waters), Hold on Tight and the 18th hole Oh Yeah, which is what you might say when finished! The course is designed to be a championship course with multiple par fours and several par five holes and is the case with most other courses in parks, the footprint doesn’t interfere with other park amenities. Plans are for the course to be finished around July 4th.

Jacob Fork sits on a 100-acre parcel of land owned by the City of Newton located off NC Highway 10 West in Catawba County. The site is less than a quarter of a mile from the interchange of Hwy. 10 and the U.S. Highway 321 Freeway interconnector, which is a major western NC thoroughfare connecting the Charlotte Metro area with the Hickory/Morganton/Lenoir Metro area and ultimately Boone to the northwest.

Other features at Jacob Fork Park include picnic table by the river, two softball fields, a canoe launch, fishing access, a walking track, pump track and a 2.5 mile Woodland Trail for biking and walking/running. It was great to explore this park and almost all aspects of it in use. There were even a few disc golfers taking advantage of the holes that are complete. Near one of the parking areas for the trail are a picnic table and bike repair station. As a cyclist, I don’t see many of these in parks and along greenways.

As I have seen with many park projects there are countless hours of time donated by volunteers. At Jacobs Fork, volunteers have helped build picnic tables and the Woodland Trail and currently, they are working to finish the disc golf course. Our parks are certainly fortunate to have dedicated individuals who see the vision and are willing to help by giving of their time, talents and financial resources. As we kick off Volunteer Month, if you haven’t said thank you to your volunteers, now would be a great time!

For more information on Newton Parks & Recreation visit

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Tags:  50at50  Newton  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | April 2

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Monday, April 2, 2018
Updated: Friday, March 30, 2018

This week’s visit is to a park so new the only amenities besides the natural beauty are a few trails that have been created and used by citizens.  Thursday, I had the honor of attending the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Lakeside Park in Valdese.  Parks & Recreation Director Doug Knight first printed off a map of this property in 2007.  The town tried to negotiate with the owner, but the property which sits on Lake Rhodhiss was sold to a developer.  Several years ago, the town negotiated with the developer to purchase 302 acres for the park.

I was impressed to see about 50 guests, including state and local elected officials, citizens and representatives from sponsors and funding sources attend this event.  It was exciting to hear Mayor Chip Black talk about the future of Valdese and what this park represents.  He shared how parks support the economy and that younger generations are looking for a place to live and then how to make a living.  He called adding the park to their system “a once in a lifetime opportunity”.  In addition to funds received from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, they have received support from Kellex, Carolinas Healthcare Blue Ridge, and The Rostan Family Foundation.

Their biggest supporter is not a corporate entity, but a citizen.  Her name is Beth Heile.  She is the President of the Friends of Valdese Recreation group and has been the person working hand in hand with Doug Knight to bring this project to fruition.  During her remarks, she said, “faith is taking the first step when you can’t see the top of the staircase”, she then told the crowd “we had not reached the top yet, just a plateau”.  She then had the audience cheer with her “I Believed” and invited us to the park opening in 2-3 years.  It is wonderful to see citizens embrace what parks mean to a community and then take action.  If you have a “Beth” in your community, you are very fortunate and I encourage you to thank them for what they do!

The town’s website hasn’t added this park to their listing of facilities since it is not officially open for business.  To learn for about the agency and to find details on Lakeside Park in the future, visit

Ribbon Cutting photo courtesy of The Morganton News Herald

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Tags:  50at50  parks  recreation  Valdese 

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50 at 50 | March 23

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Tuesday, March 20, 2018
As you’ve read in previous blog posts, parks come in all shapes and sizes and have a variety of amenities. I recently explored a linear park also known as a greenway on a recent visit to Clayton. At 1.25 miles in length, the Sam’s Branch Greenway is an important connector as it will eventually connect to other parks, Downtown Clayton and the Clayton Community Center. Just off of the parking lot is where the greenway will continue under the road.  Opened in the spring of 2013, this stretch of greenway currently connects to the Clayton River Walk which meets up with the Neuse River Greenway in Wake County and provides about 30 miles of biking and hiking opportunities.

While exploring the greenway with Clayton Park & Recreation Director Larry Bailey, he shared how he noticed that as families were walking out on the trail the kids were happy on the way out and crying on the return trip. So he set out to find some things to add to the greenway to give kids something to do and learn along the way. As with many communities, Eagle Scouts look to parks for opportunities for a project. A recent project installed two stations along the greenway sharing information about forest animals that may be seen along the trail and the habitat around a small pond. With funds donated by The Rotary Club, picnic table and benches were installed.

At mile 1, there is a display of outdoor public art. At an overlook along Sam’s Branch, there are whimsical butterfly benches, a totem pole and a Little Free Library that was a project of a recent Miss Clayton and books donated by the Junior Women’s Club. Just past this overlook along the fencing on both sides of the greenway is an outdoor art exhibit. The acrylics on plywood project are designed and painted by art students at Clayton High, Clayton Middle, and Cooper and Powhatan Elementary Schools. This collaborative exhibit is a joint venture between the Clayton Public Art Advisory Board and the art teachers and students at Clayton Public Schools. The first installation was butterflies and the second installation is fish. After the exhibit, the art is sold at the local Harvest Festival and the proceeds go back into the next year’s project.

Anytime a greenway is near a major water source like the Neuse River, there is an opportunity for flooding. This current exhibit has already been underwater two times, once due to a hurricane and another from a major storm event. It was great to see a how a variety of local partners have come together to elevate the experience one receives while strolling, running or biking along Sam’s Branch Greenway. I highly recommend it as a place to visit and emulate.

For more information on Clayton Parks & Recreation Greenways visit

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Tags:  50at50  arts  Clayton  greenways  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | March 16

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Thursday, March 15, 2018
My most recent 50 at 50 park visit wasn’t specifically to a park, but to a complex. I was in Boone and made a visit to the Watauga County Parks and Recreation Sports Complex. While approximately 36.5 total acres, the arrangement, and partners on this complex are somewhat unique. The County of Watauga owns about 13 acres and an additional 18 acres is on a long-term lease from the Town of Boone. Nearby, another 5.5 acres are leased from the Optimist Club. During the winter, the Swim Complex is a hub of activity. With three swim/dive areas, it was nice to see activity in the middle of the afternoon. Here the swimming pools operate by salt chlorine generation and I got a tour of the pump room where it all happens. For more information on the process, you can see the details provided for citizens on their website. In the winter the snow actually serves as an insulator and the design of the building allows for the glass doors that form the walls to be opened.

On the day of my visit, there has been a brief snow shower that morning, the temperature was 31 degrees and the wind was blowing in gusts of 40 miles per hour. Given the choice, I would have selected to be inside the pool where the water was much warmer. Instead, I zipped up my coat and put on the gloves and ventured out to explore the rest of the complex. I found courts for playing tennis, pickleball, and basketball and fields for playing baseball, softball, and soccer. Finally, I found the area affectionately called the Tot Lot. While exploring, I found a variety of opportunities for play and learning. Surround the perimeter of the Tot Lot is a paved walkway and while it is not great in distance, I could easily see parents walking while their children played or kids riding their bikes and playing with the push toys available. This area also provides a picnic shelter.

If you want to visit this complex, don’t wait too long. Plans are well underway for lots of changes. The County has purchased about 9 adjoining acres that were previously used as the Business Affairs Annex from Appalachian State University and this will be the site of a new community center complete with aquatics facility, 4 gyms, fitness area, indoor suspended walking track, and will also serve as the offices for the staff of Watauga County Parks and Recreation. With all the exciting plans in the works for this site, I’m glad I had the opportunity to see the “before” and look forward to seeing the “after”

For more information on Watauga County Parks & Recreation visit

Tags:  50at50  Parks  Recreation  watauga county 

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50 at 50 | March 9

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, March 9, 2018
Last Summer, I received an email for a park opening and the picture included was most interesting. It showed a suspended “pier” over a body of water. After a little more reading, I discovered it was an invitation to the grand opening of Quarry Park in Winston-Salem. The park is the site of the former Vulcan Material quarry that has filled with water over the years. The funding to convert the quarry into a park was part of a $30.85 million parks and recreation bond approved in 2014. More than 200 acres of mostly wooded land surrounding the former quarry make up the park and what I saw on my recent visit is just the first phase which included the observation pier, restrooms, and picnic tables.

It is quite impressive when you drive up and see the centerpiece of the park, an elevated observation pier over the quarry. It provides good views of the quarry, the surrounding parkland and the city skyline in the distance. After parking my car, I walked around the lower portion of the observation area and was able to see the pier overhead. In paying homage to the former quarry, the park sign is bolted to a large rock and the exterior walls of the restroom facility are smaller rocks contained between the wall and a wire fence holding them in place. For those who might be apprehensive about going out on the suspended pier, there were multiple areas to take a peek at the water and wildlife below from the safety of the ground.

I was also intrigued by what I first thought was sculpture and later realized it was also a place for relaxing. These concrete circles have curved bottoms so as to form seats. I think it could be used with 2 people seated side by side or as I preferred in the lounging position. A visitor using it in my preferred way was kind enough to let me take her picture for demonstration purposes. I then made the trek out to the end of the observation pier. Walking over the restrooms and out to the end, I was able to look down into the depths of the quarry and see the various strata of rock. While at the end, I chatted with a gentleman who grew up in the area and remembered as a kid hearing the blasting from the quarry and was pleased that the area had been turned into such a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the fresh air.

The project also included construction of the Waughtown Connector, a greenway that connects the Waughtown area to the park and extends to the Peachtree Greenway to provide access from Reynolds Park and the Salem Creek Greenway. While there, I saw numerous people walking, running and biking on the greenway. Next time I think I need my bike to explore all of these connecting parts.

If you are interested in learning more about this park and perhaps planning a visit when in Winston-Salem for the NCRPA Conference in October, visit

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Tags:  50at50  parks  recreation  winston-salem 

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50 at 50 | March 2

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Thursday, March 1, 2018
On a recent trip to Moore County, I visited Rassie Wicker Park in Pinehurst. The development of this 103-acre park began in 1997. The park has two shuffleboard and two bocce ball courts, two tennis courts, a soccer field, in-line hockey rink, playground, a splash pad, paved walking trails, brick sidewalks, expanded trail system and concession stand/restroom facility. A section of the greenway is a Born Learning Trail which is a series of 10 interactive signs that offer fun, active learning activities for young children and their families. Rassie Wicker Park is also home to the 33-acre Arboretum that was developed by the Village Heritage Foundation and built with private funds. The Arboretum’s Gardens and Timmel Pavilion are popular locations for weddings, receptions and other events.

In doing a little reading, I discovered that as a surveyor Rassie Wicker was involved with the design and layout of Pinehurst. The site was owned by the Wicker family and donated for a park. While talking to Park & Recreation Director Mark Wagner, I discovered the soccer fields at this park are set to become the temporary site of the Pinehurst Elementary School in December. This will be the case for two and a half years as the old school is demolished and a new school is built back on the site. They are currently discussing how to operate the school will also keeping the park open to the public.  I can see the kids wanting to visit the splash pad during recess.

While searching the Pinehurst website in advance of my visit, I discovered equipment can be checked out. They offer tennis rackets, pickleball paddles, shuffleboard cues and discs, bocce ball, horseshoes and discs for playing disc golf. A feature of the park that caught my eye was a small square structure with what looked like a chimney coming out of it. A little reading confirmed that it was indeed a chimney and is habitat for Chimney Swifts. The four sides of the structure had information about the Chimney Swifts and why providing habitat for them is important. After watching a while, I wasn’t lucky enough to see any visiting the site.

As with most of my park visits, I needed a full day to explore and enjoy. You can learn more about the amenities at Rassie Wicker Park by visiting

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Tags:  50at50  parks  Pinehurst  recreation 

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