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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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Discover NC Parks - Onslow Pines Park, Onslow County

Posted By Thurman Hardison, retired, Friday, August 31, 2018
To have chosen Onslow Pines Park as a #DiscoverNCParks visit was easy for me; sort of like walking back in time while going forward.

Some forty years ago, I started my parks and recreation career at Onslow Pines Park. In 1978, fresh out of North Carolina Central University, with an undergraduate degree in parks and recreation administration, my first positions for pay were with Onslow County Parks and Recreation Department in trail construction during the week and gym supervision at a local school on Sunday afternoons. I, along with about a half dozen others, was hired under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, better known as CETA. CETA was enacted by Congress in 1973. Services funded via this program included on-the-job training, classroom training, and public service employment (footnote…CETA was later replaced in 1982 by the passage of the Job Training Partnership Act, commonly referred to as JTPA).

It had been some time since my last visit to Onslow Pines Park, located three miles south of Jacksonville, so my wife Jacki and I set out early one recent Saturday morning to take a look. One of the most striking features of the park is its well-developed entrance with ample parking and turnaround points to exit the park. To my surprise, the layout of the park hasn’t changed much over time, although it’s obvious that the park has been taken care of and added to by parks staff, as there are several new amenities, upgrades, and improvements. The trail from the 1970’s still exists, I was pleased to find, and now has a formal, dedicated name…the Bicentennial Trail. It’s a 4/10 mile nature walk with twenty interpretive stations as well as a 9/10 mile jogging/fitness trail. There are picnic areas and covered pavilions for family gatherings, lighted tennis and basketball courts for night play, combination baseball/softball/football/soccer fields, a little league baseball field, a playground for tots and a recently constructed inclusive playground, multi-purpose arenas for special events, and a senior citizen outdoor recreation area.

Onslow County has a lot to be proud of with Onslow Pines Park, as it has been sustained and continues to improve over time. When visiting relatives or friends in Onslow County/Jacksonville, take some time to visit or revisit Onslow Pines Park. For more information on Onslow Pines Park, visit

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Tags:  DiscoverNCParks  Onslow County  parks  recreation 

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Discover NC Parks - Goat Island Park and Greenway, Cramerton

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, August 24, 2018
Updated: Thursday, August 23, 2018
"Welcome to Goat Island Park and Greenway" was the sign I saw upon entering the park in Cramerton in Gaston County. I had heard about this island park and decided it was time for a visit. The 29-acre park is located in the middle of the South Fork River of the Catawba River. Yes, you read that right. The park is located in the middle of the river.

Opened in 2012, this park has a 181-foot pedestrian bridge that gives you access to the park from a parking area. Once in the park, there are lots of amenities to be found including walking trails, greenway, playground, 18-hole disc golf course, fishing pier, canoe/kayak portage, shelters with grills, a dog park, outdoor permanent cornhole boards and table tennis boards. There is a second pedestrian bridge that lets you enter from the town center.

The afternoon I chose to visit was one of those days where the temperature was in the high 90s and the dew point in the low 70s, and there just were not a lot of people out enjoying the park while I was there. I did see one adult with several kids go into the park, but they did not stay too long due to the heat.

While the greenway is part of the Carolina Thread Trail, one amenity that really caught my eye was the Goat Island Fitness Pavilion. It is an outside gym. With a concrete floor and canopy roof, it provides the central area for a variety of outdoor fitness equipment. Even though it was hot, I did try out the elliptical for a few minutes.

If you find yourself in this area and are looking for a unique park location, give Goat Island Park and Greenway a try. For more information visit

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Tags:  Cramerton  DiscoverNCParks  parks  Recreation 

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Discover NC Parks - Winterville Recreation Park

Posted By Thurman Hardison, Retired, Friday, August 17, 2018
Updated: Thursday, August 16, 2018
My daughter Ciara and her husband Vincent live in Winterville with their three children Christian, Laila, and Maia. Winterville is a charming town just outside of Greenville and given its proximity to our home in New Bern, my wife Jackie and I get to visit them on a frequent basis.  Our grandchildren are active in many activities in the Winterville/Greenville area like bible school, visits to the library, recreational sports, theatre, dance, and more, thanks to their parent’s sacrifices and love for their children. One place they’ve come to enjoy and appreciate is the local park - Winterville Recreation Park.

Surrounded by recently developed subdivisions as well as traditional homes, the park is located in the heart of town at 332 Sylvania Street. The park is more than just a park; it appears to be a focal point of the community. It is well used throughout the year, especially during recreational sports seasons. It is easily accessible by car, bike, or walking. The park is well-maintained by the town’s parks personnel, with manicured grounds and clean restroom facilities.

The park was expanded to 24 acres in 2010, and offers many amenities and resources to the public, including three youth baseball fields for league and tournament play, a large adult softball field, tennis courts for lessons and general community play, an amphitheater for special events, a playground, and 1 mile of walking trail. During the summer and fall months, you’ll find the tennis courts full, softball seasons winding down, youth football practices and games gearing up, and the amphitheater hosting a twilight activity. And, by the way, the concession stand makes a great hotdog!!!|

When visiting relatives or friends in Winterville or the Greenville area, take some time to visit or revisit the Winterville Recreation Park. For more information on the park visit

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Tags:  DiscoverNCParks  park  Recreation  Winterville 

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Discover NC Parks - LeBaeur Park, Greensboro

Posted By Christopher Horrigan, Guilford County Facilities and Parks, Friday, August 10, 2018
Updated: Thursday, August 9, 2018

“Do I really need the side of pita chips and hummus with my falafel?” Today I am savoring my lunch from Ghassan’s, located within Carolyn & Maurice LeBauer Park, in downtown Greensboro. I settle on the Lebanese salad as I watch others chow on their equally delicious looking burgers from the food kiosk opposite mine. (This is a park-blog Christopher, not a restaurant review.) The choice, however, reflects the multiplicity of recreational experiences and the diversity among the locals and out-of-towners who partake in them.

The four-acre park, which opened in the summer of 2016, is snuggly situated between the Greensboro Cultural Center, Greensboro Historical Museum, the Greensboro Public Library, and is always bustling with activity.

Park patrons and art aficionados will appreciate the installations throughout the park. The Peacehaven Sensory Wall in the children’s garden and the aforementioned food kiosks, designed by NC architect Frank Harmon. Where We Met, a colorful, 200-foot-wide, net hangs high above the concert lawn. The cabling supporting the installation, created by artist Janet Echelman, mirrors the network of railroad tracks which traversed Greensboro in the late 19th century, sending the textiles produced here across the U.S. The lawn below boasts crowds of 3,000 to 4,000 during special events, but remains an intimate setting for the free movie nights and concert series the park frequently hosts.

The large, accessible, play-scape at the center of the park provides plenty of opportunities for digging, hopping, rolling, running, spinning, and climbing. Parents will enjoy the ample seating, clear sight lines, perimeter fencing, and extended rest that comes with setting their child free in this space. When your hot, sweaty child has finally exhausted every conceivable way to explore the children’s garden they can cool off at the interactive fountain/splash pad situated just steps from the gate to the play area; rinse, repeat. Parents and guardians can also enroll their children in the free, weekly, Kid’s Klub programming with dance, art, story-time, and healthy eating opportunities.

A pocket dog park consisting of artificial turf and crushed stone occupies a corner of the park; dog lovers/owners and werewolves can participate in free group dog training, dog yoga, and adoption fairs…swearwolves should stay home! (If you got the rather obscure movie reference, and you’re in Greensboro, let’s have coffee, or chips and hummus). Nature enthusiasts can stop and smell the flowers in the native plant garden and golfers can work on their short game at the putting green outside the cultural arts center. LeBauer park is open until 11 pm and the lighting scheme really provides pop to the installations and fountain, so come back after sunset and grab a drink or dinner at nearby Café Europa and enjoy the park in a new light.

As much as I enjoy taking my family to LeBauer Park, it is equally enjoyable on a professional level. It is exceptionally well managed by the nonprofit Greensboro Downtown Parks Inc. in partnership with Greensboro’s Park and Recreation Department. Well-designed parks, like LeBauer, activate underutilized spaces, promote economic development, and are a gathering place for diverse user groups to meet and co-mingle. The numerous public-private sponsorships and the $10 million bequest by Carolyn Weill LeBauer affirm the value corporations, non-profits, and the public place on our profession, parks, and the role they play in creating equitable, healthy, and vibrant communities.

LeBauer Park is located at 208 N. Davie Street Greensboro, NC 27401. On-street and off-street parking along with the Church Street Parking Deck is available nearby. A calendar of events, complete facility listing, and a detailed history of the park and the LeBauers can be found at

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Tags:  DiscoverNCParks  Greensboro  parks  recreation 

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Discover NC Parks - Lake Johnson, Raleigh

Posted By Coult Culler, Intern at NCRPA, Friday, August 3, 2018
Updated: Thursday, August 2, 2018
Choosing my #DiscoverNCParks visit was not a very hard choice. I have lived in Raleigh for about five years now and since moving here I have fallen in love with a local park named Lake Johnson Park. I live within walking distance of this wonderful site, which makes it very easy for me to go for a run or just have a nice quiet place to escape. Offering many amenities and resources to the public, Lake Johnson Park is a great place for anyone!

Recently I decided to go for a run, which I haven't done in a while, but I am glad I did. It was around 7:30 pm when I got to the lake, and it was beautiful. It was not very hot and the humidity level was down. I started my run on the west side of the lake where there is no pavement; the trails are made up of wood chips and other natural materials that have been recycled to give the trails more of a natural appearance. The West Loop Trail is roughly 1.6 miles long. I always start on the west side of the lake because there is an elevated ridge that looks over the lake, and it is a great spot to stop and catch your breath. For me, it is a spot to stop and decompress while taking in the landscape surrounding me. Continuing on the trail, the West Loop crosses Avent Ferry Road and becomes the paved East Loop. The East Loop is about 2.8 miles that includes a bridge that crosses the lake as well as a section that goes over the dam. At the dam, you usually see people fishing, playing with their pets, and others taking in the view. Continuing on the East Loop is a great way to end your run or walk. Going through the old trees and seeing wildlife, all while being about 20 yards from the lake. The end of the trail brings you right back to the parking lot, which is very convenient for people who drove. That day I didn't mind having to walk back to the house because it was just so nice out.

Lake Johnson offers more than just trails; you are able to use any of the shelters for gatherings, rent paddle boats, go fishing off the bridge or dam, participate in fitness classes, and more. I highly recommend taking the time to discover what Lake Johnson Park has to offer. Even if you do not live in the City of Raleigh, take a couple hours on a weekend and get out there! I hope this inspires you to discover Lake Johnson or any other park that may be near you.

For more information on Lake Johnson Park, visit

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Tags:  DiscoverNCParks  greenways  parks  Raleigh  Recreation 

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Discover NC Parks - Ellis Park, Rowan County, NC

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Monday, July 16, 2018
On July 12th the new All Can Play playground at Ellis Park held their ribbon cutting. This inclusive & ADA accessible is the newest addition to the park which has a community building, picnic shelters, bocce courts, 18 hole disc golf course, game room, horseshoe pits, tennis courts, pickleball courts, sand volleyball court and two ball fields. This 29-acre park also features an event center with a riding arena, judges tower, restrooms, and concession stand. A 1.5-mile walking trail connects the two facilities.

This playground addition was partially funded through a Connect NC Bond program. Rowan County was one of 18 projects across North Carolina selected to receive the grant funding. It was great to see a large crowd out to participate in the ribbon cutting while two busloads of children from a summer camp waited patiently for the festivities to conclude so they could PLAY!

Some featured components of the play structure include accessible swings, braille panel, sign language panel, and musical keyboard panel. Also included in the playground area is an inclusive orbit which is a merry go round that accommodates someone in a wheelchair, seated or standing all at the same time. This is a place where children, parents, grandparents, siblings, or friends with and without disabilities can interact and ”All Can Play.”

After the dedication, I asked for a tour of the community building and had a great conversation with Park Supervisor Craige Farmer. The building was previously an old school house. When it ceased to be used as a school and was placed up for auction, a group of farmers came together to purchase the building and surrounding property and gave it to the county to operate as a park and community gathering place. Today, the building is available for rental and also serves as the offices for the therapeutic recreation division and houses the Rowan County Senior Games.

In addition to all of the smiling faces on the playground, I loved the story of how the community came together to protect an area that was important to them and set it up to support the area for many years to come.

To view a fun video produced by Rowan County on the ribbon cutting visit For more information on Ellis Park visit

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Tags:  DiscoverNCParks  parks  recreation  Rowan County 

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Discover NC Parks - Fourth Creek Greenway, Statesville, NC

Posted By James Huffman, Iredell County Parks & Recreation, Friday, July 13, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2018
For my Discover NC Parks visit, I set off on the Fourth Creek Greenway operated by the Statesville Recreation and Parks. Having recently started with the Iredell County Parks and Recreation Department, in a new to me city, I was excited to see what parks the area has to offer. The Fourth Creek Greenway did not disappoint.

Starting the trail, I was pleasantly walking along enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Butterflies following me along, the lushness of the foliage, a couple of black walnut trees, burbling of Fourth Creek, happy birds calling to each other, and the occasional Copes gray tree frog awake in the daytime. This is how I envisioned my time at the greenway. I was in for a surprise, as happens often at NC parks, I took a bend in the trail and walked into a massive soccer complex! Little to my knowledge the greenway skirted the outside of the Statesville Soccer Complex. This place is massive! 75 acres with playgrounds, disc golf, sand volleyball, shelters and 7 full-size soccer fields. I was in bliss!

It was a weekday around noon when I visited, thusly the action wasn’t happening. I could easily envision a Saturday during soccer season. The fields full of athletes, children playing on the playgrounds, runners, walkers and cyclist using the greenway and everyone being outside having fun and staying healthy.

I picked the greenway due to my love of them. Taking land that is either unusable or already purposed and making it into a usable green space that helps sustain nature as well as us. As is the case with Fourth Creek. I started in a low area next to the creek, skirted a soccer complex and then followed it under tall power lines. I will be back to finish the greenway and next time with my family, maybe we will gather some of the black walnuts in the fall!

For more information on the Fourth Creek Greenway visit

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Tags:  DiscoverNCParks  greenways  parks  recreation  Statesville 

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