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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 | 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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50 at 50 | February 23

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018
On a recent trip to Boone, I ventured off Highway 421 to find Yadkin Memorial Park operated by Yadkin County Parks and Recreation. I was thankful for the signs along the way letting me know I was, in fact, heading to the park because it felt like it was on someone’s private driveway. When I arrived at my destination, I realized why it felt that way. The first thing I saw when entering the park was an old farmhouse and barns. Continuing down the road, I found Lake Hampton. This is a 140-acre lake that offers fishing, paddling by kayak, canoe or non-motorized boat. In 2012, the dam was completed which created the lake, and the park opened in 2014. On the 520 acres surrounding the lake, I found a one-mile paved walking trail, several natural surface trails, playground, picnic shelter, fishing pier, and a beach area complete with kayak and canoe rentals.

While out on the greenway, I met a family with a four-year-old son. He was learning to ride a bike, and I commented to the parents about this being a great place to learn to ride. They said they visit this park often as a family to enjoy time outdoors. It didn’t take long after chatting with the parents for the little boy to show me his ‘off-roading’ skills by riding his bike down a little hill and through a ditch. Then he was back on the trail and heading the fishing pier.

After exploring on my own and walking the one-mile loop in the park, I realized the office was open and that is where I met Park Manager Dave Moxley. We had a great chat about the creation of the park and he told me about future plans to add disc golf, primitive camping, more natural surface trails and an additional access road. Currently, they are adding trails to the dam and across the spillway. Looking around the office area/concession stand, I saw that they sold local crickets for fishing that can be used to catch crappie, shellcrackers, brim, largemouth bass and channel catfish.

I asked about plans for the farmhouse I had passed when I came in. He said the plan is for that to be the site of a future nature center once it is deemed safe for commercial use. Based on what I saw and heard, this young park has a bright future ahead. If you would like to learn more about Yadkin Memorial Park, visit their website at

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Tags:  50at50  parks  recreation  yadkin county 

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50 at 50 | February 16

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, February 16, 2018
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2018
I am always amazed by the unique use of land to provide parks to citizens. On a recent visit to Wilkesboro, I visited Cub Creek Park. Cu Creek meanders along the edge and through the park and the park is on both sides of Bridge Street. On one side there are a variety of athletic fields, courts for playing tennis, basketball and pickleball, a playground, picnic shelter and walking/running trail. After several hours in the car, the opportunity to explore the park via the trails was a welcomed opportunity.

Across the creek, I could see trails in the wooded area. A sign at the bridge across the creek told me the trails were closed. Following a little online research, I discovered in late 2015, the County Commissioners agreed to lease about 63 acres to the Town of Wilkesboro for the seven miles of trail. The multi-use trail can be used for mountain biking, jogging and walking and is suitable for novice mountain bikers, including children.

Next, it was time to cross Bridge Street and explore more of the park. Here I learned about the Yadkin River Greenway which was created through the cooperative efforts of citizens, landowners and the governments of Wilkes County, North Wilkesboro, Wilkesboro and the State of North Carolina. An informational sign in the park encourages everyone to be a “Greenway Keeper” by placing trash in containers, picking up trash left by others, taking recyclables home and to leave plants and animals for others to enjoy. It didn’t take long to spot a large community garden with many beds and a sign to let me know the master gardeners were involved. Next to the garden area was the dog park. And in the true spirit of collaboration, the local humane society was housed in a building near the dog park.

By making the most of the land along the river, this park offers many opportunities and it was great to see users making good use of the park. My only regret was not having more time to explore the greenway. Next time I hope to plan better.

For more information on Cub Creek Park visit

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Tags:  50at50  parks  recreation  wilkesboro 

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50 at 50 | February 9

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, February 9, 2018
Updated: Friday, February 9, 2018
Less than 10 miles from my home this week’s park is Crowder District Park which is part of the Wake County Parks, Recreation & Open Space system. Located on 33 acres this park has a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental education. Opened in 1998, the history of this park can be traced back to 1914 with the birth of Doris Pierce Crowder. The late Mrs. Crowder donated the land with the stipulation that it be used for public recreation.

I enjoyed walking around the pond which was reconstructed based on Mrs. Crowder's childhood memories of the area.There is a .3 mile paved trail around the pond that includes several bridges and overlooks. There is a .8 mile loop around the outer perimeter of the park. While there, I found several natural surface trails and one of them led to the amphitheater that I assume is used for programs. Just above the pond is an observation deck that provides opportunities for bird watching and I spotted an owl house in this area. I didn’t start my visit counting bird houses and bird feeders, but I should have. This park has many of both to nurture and attract birds. There were also several rocket bat boxes.

The park has two playgrounds, picnic shelters, a sand volleyball court and open field for play. There is also a shade garden, prairie garden, and butterfly garden. Outside the office, my eye was attracted to a large bin labeled “Discovery Boxes”. I had to open the bin and see what was inside. I found numerous plastic bins with equipment, books, and guides. I learned all the boxes come with a lesson plan for teachers or parents to provide their own educational program while at the park. What a cool idea to help visitors learn about the natural wonders they can find!

I’m already making plans to go back this spring and see the gardens in bloom and will allow more time to sit and watch the birds at the feeders. For more information on Crowder District Park visit

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Tags:  50at50  parks  recreation  wake county 

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50 at 50 | February 2

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, February 2, 2018
Updated: Thursday, February 1, 2018
Earlier this Fall, I had the opportunity to visit Clement Street Park in the Wallace, NC. The town is located in southern Duplin County and the town limits extend south into Pender County. I visited the park mid-morning on a workday and found I had the park to myself. While I love to visit a park when it is bustling with activity, it is also a treat to be the only on there.

The park is located in the heart of town at 513 SE Railroad Street. This 9.4-acre park has a lot of amenities and I can suspect it is well used due to its location. Originally the site of the Clement Elementary and High School, the park has reminders of both. In addition to a classroom building, much like the one I remember from my days in elementary school, there is a bell from the original Clement School which was on the site from 1879 to 1974. The plaque at the bell says the bell was dedicated to the all that attended and served at the school by the classes of 1948-1953. The story behind the name of the school and park can be found in the attached photos.

It was great to find a playground, picnic shelter, tennis courts, volleyball, baseball/softball field, and an outdoor basketball court. The is a great walking trail meandering through the park. On adjacent properties, there is a gymnasium with stage, basketball and racquetball courts and a senior center.

While I enjoyed having the park to myself, my mind was able to see and hear people of all ages enjoying the park. Regardless of community size, parks are the center of activity. If your travels take you near Wallace add a visit to Clement Park to your agenda. More about Wallace Parks & Recreation can be found at

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Tags:  50at50  parks  recreation  Wallace 

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50 at 50 | January 26

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Wednesday, January 24, 2018
On Sunday afternoon before visiting this park, my nephew Austin asked where we were going. When I told him the Whirligig Park, he said, “What’s a whirligig?”. I told him he’d have to wait to see and from his reaction when we arrived I gave the right answer. And you might be asking yourself the same question.

The whirligig was made famous by an NC artist Vollis Simpson who lived about 11 miles from Wilson. They are ‘windmill’ type structures made from highway and road signs, HVAC fans, bicycles, ceiling fans, mirrors, stovepipes, I-beams, pipe, textile mill rollers, ball bearings, aluminum sheeting, various woods, steel rods, rings, pans, milkshake mixers and much more that form the support and moving parts.

Mr. Simpson began making the whirligigs after his retirement at age 65 and made them until about six months before he died at 94. The original field of whirligigs was 11 miles outside Wilson and already attracted the attention of local people. After the rise of the Internet, visitors from out-of-state made their way to Vollis’ farm. Without any advertising, Simpson’s farm became one of Wilson County’s top tourism destinations.

To preserve the whirligigs and recharge its downtown, a partnership between the City of Wilson and the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park & Museum established The Whirligig Park with grants from ArtPlace America, the Kresge Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. With the grand opening held in November 2017, this 2-acre park in Wilson will feature 31 of Vollis Simpson’s whirligigs and will be the largest collection in the world and include some of Simpson’s most colossal and impressive sculptures. The park features specialty night lighting to illuminate the thousands of reflectors attached to the whirligigs, recreating the mystical experience at the original location when car headlights rounded the curve near the Simpson farm. In addition to the whirligigs, the Green, a central grass amphitheater includes a stage and hosts various concerts and performances. The Pavilion is a large, open-air shelter housing the farmers market, community events, and activities.

There is a lot to see in this park. After walking around, we sat down on a bench and watched the individual parts. It was encouraging to see all the ‘junk’ that was kept out of the landfill as the main focus of a park, capitalize on tourism and assist with a downtown rejuvenation. I know I’ll be back when I have time to sit and watch them spin, grab some dinner and then go back at night to see the special lighting.

You can learn more about Wilson’s Whirligig Park at

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Tags:  50at50  parks  Recreation  whirligig  wilson 

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50 at 50 | January 19

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, January 19, 2018
Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018

On a recent visit to visit my family in Goldsboro, my nephew Austin and I ventured out one afternoon to explore a few parks. Our first visit was to Battle Park in Rocky Mount. I picked this park after reading the description on their website. This park sits on the site of Rocky Mount’s first post office, theatre and the "rocky mounds" where Rocky Mount got its name. The 56.5-acre park was dedicated in 1976 and is located between Highway 64 and the Tar River. The park is mostly based on natural and historical resources and provides access to the Tar River Trail and the Tar River Paddle Trail. The park offers a boat landing, picnic shelters, fishing piers and a gazebo with a view of the Rocky Mount Mills dam.

On this cold day, we drove around the park first. Our first stop was at the boat ramp where we had a great view in both directions of the Tar River. Then we visited the Battle Park Cemetery which was once owned by The Rocky Mount Mills and is the burial site for many employees of the Mills and their families. A short walk along the greenway we found a great viewing spot for the water roaring over the dam outside the mill. Further down the path, we found a gazebo with even better views.

We found a sign about a 13 minute documentary on the Burning of the Rocky Mount Mills during Potter’s Raid in 1863. The documentary was a project of the Advanced Placement US History class from Nash Central High School during the 2015-16 school year and links to a youtube video. This was a nice use of technology to relay the history of the area to visitors and maybe even locals.

With the ongoing revitalization of the 150-acre mill area into a live, work and play development along the opposite side of the river, I would anticipate this park being even more popular in the future. If you find your way to Rocky Mount, consider a visit to Battle Park. More information on the park can be found at

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Tags:  50at50  history  Parks  Recreation  rocky mount 

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50 at 50 | January 12

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, January 12, 2018

On the break between Christmas and New Year, I ventured out on a few of those chilly days to visit parks and found South Park in Fuquay-Varina. Having looked at the website, I was expecting to find just the park and what I found was so much more. South Park is 25-acres and is the location for many of the Town’s special events. I found fields for playing baseball, softball, and soccer along with a batting cage. There are 2 playgrounds, near the splash pad along with a picnic shelter. A quarter-mile track for walking/running is along the perimeter of the park and provides access to the Jeff Wells Trail.

In addition to the park and all of its amenities, on the adjoining property was the Fuquay-Varina Community Center. While exploring the facility, I found open play happening in one-half of the side-by-side gyms. In addition to several meeting/classrooms, there was a fitness facility and a demonstration kitchen. I loved the cooking tips on the wall as I could use them for cooking at home as well to avoid burned hands, missing an ingredient and the last tip was about experimenting with different herbs and spices - something I need to do more.

Back outside in the park, I saw several adults braving the cold weather to get in their steps on the track and a father was teaching his young kids how to drive the remote controlled car that I assume was a recent gift. Without many visitors nearby, it was a great open space to learn. I’m always amazed to see the many non-traditional reasons citizens visit parks.

For more information on South Park visit

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Tags:  50at50  fuquay-varina  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | January 5

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Thursday, January 4, 2018

This week’s visit is to the park I call “my state park” - William B. Umstead right here in Raleigh.  And if I think of it as ‘my state park’, yes, I have been there many times before.  But on January 1st as a First Day Hike participant, I got to experience many "new to me" parts of the park and I want to share my adventure with you.

In 1774, land grants opened the area for settlement and forests were cleared for agriculture.  While early farming efforts were successful, poor cultivation practices and one-crop production led to depletion and erosion of the soil.  In 1934, under the Resettlement Administration, federal and state agencies united to buy 5,000 acres of this submarginal land to develop a recreation area. The Civilian Conservation Corps, as well as the Works Progress Administration, helped construct the site.Four camps along with day-use and picnic facilities were built and the park opened to the public in 1937.  Originally two parks, in 1966, the Crabtree Creek and Reedy Creek areas were united under the same name; William B. Umstead State and encompasses just over 5500 acres.  

At 9 am on Monday 1/1/18 at a temperature of 17 degrees,  I honestly thought there would only be a few people crazy enough to bundle up and head outside for a 2-hour hike.  Well, I was wrong and that made me smile.  I was one of about 40 people ready to explore Umstead.  In the parking lot, we got our instructions and headed off on the Company Mill trail. I have hiked this trail many times before, but not with Ranger Billy Drakeford.  Although he has only been at the Umstead for about 1 ½ years, I found him to be very knowledgeable about the park and it was evident he had done his research..  

He took us to see several millstones that were works in progress and probably never made it to the mill.  We were introduced to an old Boy Scout camp council circle and learned how it is currently used for educational programs. While in the camp circle, we even sang a camp song.  Then our hike took us to the largest rock outcropping in the park.  Having hiked back to the point where we would return to the parking lot we were given the opportunity to extend the hike and visit a few more ‘hidden treasures’.  Next, we visited a stone building previously used for dynamite storage, the rusted out frame of an old Model A or T, the remnants of a building once used for smoking tobacco and wilderness survival shelters recently built by homeschool students.  I was impressed by the research current and former Umstead staff have done to collecting stories and information from descendants who once lived on the property.   

When the hike finished around 12:30 pm, I had forgotten how cold it was at the beginning.  Maybe because it was now 28 degrees or because I had such a fun time hiking and learning.  Either way, it was a great way to start my New Year and I’ll be looking to participate in future programs led by Ranger Billy.  

If you are looking to prepare for your #FirstDayHike 2019, consider taking part in some of the great hikes that will be offered through Hike NC a program of which NCRPA is a partner.  Hikes are scheduled to begin on March 20 - the first day of Spring.  If you are interested in hosting a hike this Spring, look for information coming out from NCRPA later this month.  

For more information on William B. Umstead State Park visit 

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Tags:  50at50  first day hike  hike  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | December 29

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Thursday, December 28, 2017
With the end of the year quickly approaching and the high temps in the 20’s, I ventured out to Holly Springs located in Southern Wake County for a visit to Bass Lake Park. I had heard about the park, but this was my first visit. Even though the temps were chilly, I was glad to see that I wasn’t the only one enjoying the park.

The focal point of the park is the 54-acre lake. In the last 1800s, a grist mill stood on the property until it collapsed during a storm in 1949. The dam burst in 1996 during Hurricane Fran and the lake was drained dry. In 1999, the Town acquired the property and began a lake restoration project. Bass Lake Park was completed in 2004 and offers a variety of opportunities to visitors.

In addition to the trails, the park has a conference center with a unique beach-house feel. This facility is available for rent parties, conferences, and weddings. There is also a North Carolina Environmental Education Center offering native animal exhibits, a reference library, and friendly and knowledgeable staff. I looked around but didn’t linger too long when I realized there were several snakes on display. The staff was testing games for an upcoming Nerf fight they will be hosting and it was interesting to chat with them about their plans.

The park is home to many species of native plants and animals and through a partnership the NC Community Fishing Lake Program stocks the lake with catfish, but fisherman will also find bass, bream, and crappie. If you don’t have a pole, there is also a free tackle loaner program. I walked along the 2-mile natural surface trail that borders the lake and connects with other Holly Springs Parks & Recreation greenways. Early in the walk, I came upon 2 ducks. They were sitting so still at first I thought they were decoys. In the woods along the lake, I noticed 2 very large boxes with big openings. When I circled back to the environmental education center, I found out they are owl boxes. It was in that same area that I scared up a hawk who flew off to a nearby branch.

With lots of wildlife, educational exhibits, enjoyable trails and the opportunity to rent a canoe when warmer weather returns, I’ll be making plans for another visit to explore the park from the water as well. For more information on Bass Lake Park, visit

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Tags:  50at50  environmental education  holly springs  parks  Recreation 

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