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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 | December 22

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, December 22, 2017
On one of those warm November weekends, I was able to make an impromptu trip to the Crystal Coast for the weekend.  We camped at the Cedar Point campground in the Croatan National Forest.  Being able to watch the sunset set over the White Oak River and hike the Tidelands National Trail, a 1.9-mile path divided into two loops that lend themselves to wildlife viewing was great.  

Cedar Point, at the mouth of the White Oak River, is bordered by a salt marsh and a coastal forest. The salt marsh, where fresh water meets salt water, stretches out like a sea of grass. This nutrient-rich wetland is a valuable habitat for commercial seafood, including fish, shrimp, crabs, and oysters.  The recreation area is part of the Croatan National Forest, a 160,000-acre tract on North Carolina's coast, bordered on three sides by tidal rivers and Bogue Sound.

We ventured out of the campground to explore Emerald Isle and found Emerald Isle Woods Park.  With 41 acres, it is located off of Coast Guard Road and accessible just as you cross the Intracoastal Waterway on the Emerald Isle bridge.  Complete with disc golf, a floating dock to enable kayak launching, a picnic pavilion and hiking/walking trails this park offers a variety of activities for visitors.  As a coastal community, the town has just under 4000 year-round residents and grows to as much as 50,000 during the tourist season.

From the parking lot, we walked past the pavilion along the boardwalk down to the dock.  It was great to see gentlemen coming up the dock with his kayak in tow. He told me comes there several days a week to paddle and get his exercise.  After enjoying some time along the water's edge watching boats and birds, we checked out the hiking/walking trails.  I was surprised when there were inclines on the trail as we traditionally think of the beach as being flat.  It was a very nice walk with lots of birds and trees to be enjoyed.  

If you find yourself being one of those 50,000 tourists, I recommend a visit to Emerald Isle Woods Park.  More information is available at

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Tags:  50at50  beach  Emerald Isle  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | December 8

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, December 8, 2017
Updated: Thursday, December 7, 2017
This past weekend was the last camping trip of the year for me. I have had some great adventures camping and this last one was no exception. We headed out to Morrow Mountain State Park for a weekend of camping, hiking, campfires, time in the hammock, good food and good friends. And completely out of our control, we had wonderful weather for December.

Located in Stanly County, development of the park began in the 1930s through the efforts of a local committee interested in establishing a state park in the area. By 1937, more than 3,000 acres of land had been acquired, much of it donated by the citizens of Stanly County. The park was opened to the public in the summer of 1939. Early development of park property was a cooperative effort between state and federal governments. Work crews of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Work Projects Administration constructed many of the facilities. Additional facilities were added with state funds in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, the park covers 4,742 acres.

While exploring the park, I found a great swimming pool and community building that is connected to the park office. The day I was there, a group was prepping for an event later that day. The park also has a great museum that highlights the history of the area and the park. After the 3 mile hike from the museum to the top of Morrow Mountain, I had the opportunity to read several of the educational exhibits about the volcanic rock Rhyolite. This rock was very popular with prehistoric peoples. The rock exhibits a property called conchoidal fracture. When the rock is broken, it forms shell-like fractures that create a very sharp edge that can be shaped into sharp points, knives, scrapers, and axes.

While at the top we enjoyed our lunch at a picnic shelter that overlooked the area and even had a fireplace. After the 3 mile trek to the bottom, it was time to relax, shower and prep dinner. In my opinion, it was a great way to spend the day.

If you are looking for a quiet place to camp and maybe even enjoy the nearby rivers and lakes, consider a visit to Morrow Mountain. With one campground loop open year-round, you could always visit the next time we have an unseasonably warm weekend. Visit the State Parks website at to learn more about Morrow Mountain State Park.

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Tags:  50at50  Morrow Mountain  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | December 1

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, December 1, 2017
Updated: Thursday, November 30, 2017
In 1998 as an NCSU student doing my internship, I spent my summer in Cabarrus County working with what is now Cabarrus Active Living and Parks. Through the years, I have maintained friendships with many of those who helped me get real-world experiences that summer and have had to opportunity to also work with them professionally. In the 29 years since I’ve been gone, they have added new parks and expanded on the school park program. On a recent visit in the area, I was able to visit Rob Wallace Park.

Rob Wallace Park is a 143-acre park with natural habitat and plans that will phase the land into a modern and green space. The park has a boardwalk, fishing pond, mountain and bike trails, playground and picnic areas, and the park office. Future plans include nature classrooms, additional play areas, piers and trails that use the natural resources in the area. And from the website, I found out an aerial adventure park is under consideration for this space.

My Saturday morning visit included time to walk some of the trails, especially the path around the fishing pond, and enjoy the porch swing out by the pond and garden. While out in the park, I noticed what I thought was trash in the woods and later realized it was part of the Woodland Wonders trail, complete with a sign indicating I should explore at my own risk. At the picnic shelter, I saw a very nice sign that was hinged to indicate how the shelter can be reserved and that it has already been reserved (check out the photos to see this). I love how our park & recreation agencies are informing captive audiences. This is the second time, I’ve been informed about upcoming park events while in the bathroom. Very clever to have a sign that can be updated over the hand dryer.

Before leaving the park, I went inside the park office to find a number of exhibits. While talking to a staff member, he told me about a trail camera in the park and how they have ‘captured’ deer, wild turkeys, and bobcat. But his final greeting to me as I left the building was the most impactful. He said, “Enjoy your Park”. It was fantastic to encounter someone who has this kind of enthusiasm for their park and wanted to share it with me.

For more information on Rob Wallace Park located at 12900 Bethel School Road in Midland, visit

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Tags:  50at50  Cabarrus County  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | November 17

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, November 17, 2017
Updated: Thursday, November 16, 2017
When I turned off Rocky River Road in Charlotte into Reedy Creek Park, I didn’t realize all the great things I was going to find on the inside.  The park and preserve are a combined 927 acres.  In the 125 acre park, I found athletic fields, shelters, a disc golf course, community garden, ponds, fishing piers, and a dog park.  One observation I had at the dog park was a gentleman with braces on both of his knees.  As he was watching his dog run and frolic with other dogs, I realized this might be the only opportunity for exercise for the dog.   

Reedy Creek Nature Preserve preserves habitat for 109 species of birds, 15 species of mammals, 20 species of reptiles, and 12 species of amphibians and has 10 miles of hiking trails. 

At the end of the main road, I found myself at a T intersection, I went left and found the Carolina Panthers themed Play 60 challenge course which opened on October 11.  Represented by Cunningham Recreation, this is the10th GameTime Challenge Course in NC.  First created five years ago, this course is “NFL combine meets Ninja Warrior”.  The Challenge Course is an obstacle course that incorporates elements of an NFL Combine workout and the popular Ninja Warrior activities.  It also features a 40-yard dash with precision timing.  At the start, I found a ‘pep talk’ with recorded words of encouragement from various Carolina Panthers players.  In addition to having a timed 40-yard dash, there is a time-tracking element for completing the course.  Through the app available to participants, you can track and compare your times with others on this course or other GameTime Challenge Courses.  It was great to watch kids, both young and old, try multiple times to improve upon their times.

Upon returning to the T intersection, I headed towards the Nature Center.  Built in 1982, the center features live, native animals, an exhibit hall, a classroom, and a gift shop. Outside, there is a National Wildlife Federation certified Backyard Habitat Garden which includes bird feeding stations, butterfly gardens, and a demonstration compost area and nature play area.  While in the restroom, I discovered a unique publication - "The Reedy Creek Toilet Paper".  Taped to the mirror, it was a 1-page flyer about events and features all happening at the Nature Center. Talk about reaching a captive audience while washing your hands!

Reedy Creek Park & Nature Preserve have so many features to appeal to the many varied interests of citizens.  I was impressed with how well the active and passive components of the park were intertwined to provide enjoyable opportunities to everyone. For more information on Reedy Creek Park and the Nature Preserve and Center, visit

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Tags:  50at50  Carolina Panthers  GameTime  Lowes  Meckleburg County  nature  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | November 10

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, November 10, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, November 8, 2017
On a recent trip to Charlotte, I made a stop in Archdale and found Creekside Park. Not far from Interstate 85, I found a big park with amenities for most everyone. As I entered the park, there were ballfields, tennis courts and a senior center. A little farther down the road was the Randolph Community College's Archdale Center. Built in 1990 and expanded in 2006 to serve the changing needs of the northwest community of Randolph County, the center was extensively renovated in 2011. What a great partnership and nice option for students to take a study break in the park.

Along the road were picnic shelters and more fields. At the end of the road was the recreation center and playground. Periodically I saw that ‘basket on a pole’ that we know marks a disc golf course. It was great to see lots of kids enjoying the playground and several youth riding their bikes through the park.

There was one thing I was looking for and didn’t find - the Orienteering Course (this is your cue to LOL if you got that!). Based on their website, the course is 1.24 miles consisting of 12 control points, where an individual or group can test their navigation skills through diverse terrain. An alternate .57 mile course is also available which avoids the woods. Whether for leisure or competition, participants can race against the clock to locate the control points. All that is needed to complete the course is a compass, or a smartphone compass application, and the course map listing the distance and direction to each control point and showing their location relative to park features. This course was added to the park as an Eagle Scout Service Project.

When I returned to Raleigh, I realized why I didn’t find the course. I didn’t plan ahead by printing the map and packing the compass I found on the trail during my last hiking trip. Next time, I’ll be better prepared!

With about 103 acres, Creekside Park is the main recreation hub for the community and the recreation center houses all of the recreation offices. The park got started by a group called the Park Committee and became part of the city in 1979.  For more information on the park, visit

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Tags:  50at50  Archdale  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | November 3

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, November 3, 2017
Updated: Monday, October 30, 2017
On a recent return trip from a meeting, I drove past Anderson Community Park located off of Highway 54 in Carrboro. This 55-acre park features baseball and softball fields, basketball, sand volleyball and tennis courts, horseshoe pits, disc golf course, dog park, fishing pond, a half-mile walking trail, and playground, along with shelters and open space.

I arrived at the park mid-afternoon and set out to explore. My first stop was the dog park where I saw a few citizens and their 4-legged friends enjoying the enclosed space. My next stop was the walking trail near the fishing pond. According to the sign posted by the NC Wildlife Commission, you can expect to catch Channel Catfish. It is always great to see partnerships between parks and recreation and other state and federal organizations to provide services to the community. While at the lake, which is very close to the highway, I didn’t notice the road noise due to a buffer of trees and the fountain in the lake. While an aesthetically pleasing feature, and it helped buffer the sound, I’m guessing the fountain also serves other purposes.

It is always interesting to see families together when I am at a park. On this visit, a father along with what I assume were his son and daughter came up to the basketball courts to shoot some hoops. While the son was doing most of the shooting, the daughter was doing cartwheels and entertaining herself. Occasionally she stopped to shoot a basket or rebound and then it was back to the cartwheels. I also got to view an ultimate frisbee practice taking place where the kids were learning different techniques or doing conditioning drills.

One thing that caught my eye was a sign listing all the rules. Most every park has them that lists the “don’t dos” while you are in the park. But what I loved about this sign was the last statement. It read, “This park is your park, please assist in the effort to maintain a safe, clean environment for your enjoyment”. Wow! What a nice way to end a list of rules with a positive statement and reminder that this “your park”!

If you find yourself in the Carrboro area, swing by Anderson Community Park and check it out for yourself. You can find more information online at

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Tags:  50at50  Carrboro  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | October 27

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, October 27, 2017
Updated: Thursday, October 26, 2017
I love camping and last weekend I found myself on a camping trip to Staunton River State Park in Virginia about 25 miles from the NC border. One of Virginia’s original state parks it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and opened in 1936. In 1952, with the completion of the John H. Kerr Dam and the formation of Buggs Island Lake, part of the park was flooded. With 2,400-acres, the park offers woodlands, meadows, and shoreline along the Dan and Staunton rivers. The park also has Olympic-sized and wading pools, picnic shelters, three playgrounds, tennis and volleyball courts, several boat launches and more than 17 miles of multi-use trails. Buggs Island Lake, offers freshwater fishing and boating, along with water skiing and many other aquatic activities. Most of my time was spent in the campground or out on the trails.

In the campground, it was very dark at night. The only light provided was a dim light outside of the bathhouse. When you looked around, there were not many lights at all. And there is a unique reason for this. The park is the first state park in Virginia to be designated an International Dark Sky Park and is ideal for stargazing. The park management became aware of the appeal of the site’s naturally dark nighttime character and began welcoming visitors to take advantage of viewing its dark night skies. In addition to park staff offering associated interpretive programs and rents telescopes, they also host the Staunton River Star Party.

The Star Party was taking place while I was there and on Saturday night they invited the community to join them and look through their telescopes. What does it mean to attend a Star Party? Phones, flashlights, and headlights had to be covered with a red film to limit light pollution. We walked to the viewing field from the campground. I was glad I had seen the area in the daylight because even using a red light made seeing where I was going a bit of a challenge.

Once inside the observation area, The hosts were very friendly and provided educational information about what we were viewing and what was needed to get started in this hobby.
When your eyes adjust to being outside in an area where there is very limited light pollution, you can see so many more stars. It was inspiring to look at the stars. We just missed seeing Saturn when we arrived. The next Staunton River Star Party is March 14-18, 2018.

In addition to hiking and stargazing, there was time spent in the hammock, by the campfire, telling stories and enjoying good food and time with friends! Not a bad way to send a weekend.

For more information on Staunton River State Park visit and for the Staunton River Star Party visit

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Tags:  50at50  Parks  Recreation  stargazing 

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50 at 50 | October 20

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, October 20, 2017
Updated: Thursday, October 19, 2017
This week I headed to a meeting in Sneads Ferry and if you don’t know where that is, get out your NC map, look toward the coast and you’ll find it just inland from Surf City and that is the site of this week’s new to me park visit. Soundside Park is aptly named as it sits along the sound’s edge overlooking the Intracoastal waterway. There is a lot happening in this small space with fishing piers, boat ramp, picnic shelters, boardwalk with educational displays, chairs around the boardwalk for watching the world go by, amphitheater and playground. The playground at the park was funded by the Surf City Town Council along with the former Volunteer Surf City EMS Squad. This is the first time I’ve seen a “climbing fish” as part of the playground, and it was very impressive.

While I was there, I saw a number of trucks pulling boats heading to the boat ramp. There were children playing on the playground and what appeared to be a grandfather and grandson walking along the boardwalk. A sign at the entrance to a section of the boardwalk caught my eye. It was a hiking icon with the initials MST. I had found a portion of the Mountains to Sea Trail. The park is also the site of the Surf City Summer Market with arts, crafts and produce each Tuesday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The day of my visit had near-perfect weather, and the only complaint I have about my visit is that it wasn’t long enough. I could have spent the rest of my day there watching boats go by and the bridge swing open and close to accommodate waterway traffic.

If you make your way to Surf City or Topsail, add a stop to Soundside Park to your agenda. For more information on Soundside Park or to view their slideshow visit

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Tags:  50at50  parks  recreation  Surf City 

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50 at 50 | October 13

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, October 13, 2017
Updated: Thursday, October 12, 2017

Earlier this week, I headed out for a park that I often see in online reviews and social media posts - Knightdale’s Station Park. All the information I had seen focused on the playground area that has a train/farm theme. Well, I was surprised when I made a right turn into the park. It was so much more than the play area I had been exposed to online.

In 2011 the town had the opportunity to purchase a former nursery in downtown Knightdale and plans for Knightdale Station were set in motion. Opened in September 2013, the 76-acre park offers two miles of paved trails through groves of trees and along a boardwalk on a pond, the town’s first dog park, athletic fields, and a playground. The farm and train-themed play area is a reminder of Knightdale’s railroad and agricultural past. There’s a train with tunnel and slides, a working railroad crossing with lights and bells, a 2-story silo, a play chicken coop, a corral of bouncy horses, a cow to climb on and lots to inspire the imagination. Phase II is underway with tennis courts, an amphitheater, farmers market, and arboretum. 

I loved the train depot feel in the design of the shelters that are used for the farmers market and other outdoor events. Even though it was a cloudy day and had recently rained, the playground was full of kids representing a plethora of ages. And three furry friends were getting their play on in the dog park. As a walker, I liked that the greenway in the park was not just a loop around the perimeter but meandered through the park and gave a walker multiple options to craft their own walking experience.

If you are traveling on Hwy 264 or Interstate 540 in eastern Wake County, I recommend a quick detour to see Knightdale Station Park for yourself. For more information on the park visit

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Tags:  50at50  knightdale  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 | September 29

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, September 29, 2017
Updated: Sunday, September 24, 2017
Due to the addition of the Highway 64 bypass, it had been a number of years since I had been to Pittsboro and drove the circle around the historic courthouse.  Pittsboro is located in Chatham County, has a population of about 4000, and it is expected to increase to 48,000 by 2030.  Last week I ventured to Pittsboro for this week’s park blog at the invitation of Park Planner Paul Horne.

Mary Holmes Park is where we went first and what a treat it was.  The park has a mix of open space and shaded wooded areas with art and play structures throughout.  Opened in 2009, this 10-acre park has lots of features designed to spark the imagination of its visitors.  There were limited formal structures but lots of rocks and natural areas that encourage play.  

The family of Mary Hayes Barber Holmes donated the land for the park when building the neighboring development.  The park has a picnic shelter, a misting spray fountain, ⅓ mile of greenway, rain garden, green roof, shelter and an open field where a local group plays soccer as the town does not offer any recreational programming.  Rocks and pieces of white oak offer seating around the open space and in other areas of the park.  A winner of a NCASLA honor award for design, the park has many green features including permeable pavers in the parking lot.  Even though the park was quiet while I was there, I learned that in the evenings and on the weekends it is a busy place.  The few people I did see on my visit were enjoying the park just as I was.  

Besides the natural beauty of the park, I was impressed with the thoughtfulness that was incorporated into the design.  This small space offers such a variety of leisure opportunities for the community in a compatible design.  And the coolest thing I saw was the climbing ‘apparatus’ in what some would call the playground. These components were built mostly on-site from rebar, styrofoam, wire similar to chicken wire and a few other materials  These structures jut out of the ground and if you look across the way, you can see a rock wall with a dragon’s head.  How cool is that?

For more information on Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park located at 304 Old Rock Springs Cemetery Road in Pittsboro, visit their website

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Tags:  50at50  naturalplay  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 - September 22

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, September 22, 2017
Updated: Thursday, September 21, 2017
On Tuesday, Wanda Parmlee, Nicole Miller, and I were fortunate to attend the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the new San-Lee Park Nature Center. The story of this new building begins 2 years, 10 months and 2 days before the ribbon cutting with a fire that destroyed the previous building. I recall hearing about this fire on my local TV station and from conversations I had with Lee County Parks & Recreation staff soon after the fire, I learned many groups assisted with the housing and care of the animals that survived the fire until they could be returned to the park.

San-Lee Park was opened in 1978 and is 177 acres. This property and the pumping station that housed the previous nature center was constructed in 1933 and served as the water supply for Sanford. When a new water supply was built by the city, the county worked to obtain this property and develop an educational park.

As the saying goes, a phoenix rises from the ashes and that is the case at San-Lee Park. Surrounded by 2 lakes for fishing and paddle boats, 12 miles of top-rated mountain biking trails, 4 miles of hiking trails, tent camping facilities, and a meadow with a small playground and open space, the nature center is the feature attraction. At just over 6000 square feet inside and a 2300 square feet deck overlooking the lake, this facility has exhibition space to allow visitors to learn about nature and the animals kept in the center. In addition to the exhibits, the center has a classroom for programming, an event space with kitchen and access to the desk, along with office space for the staff.

I think Amy Dalrymple, Chair of the Lee County Board of Commissioners shared some important words, “this is something for Lee County residents to be proud of and to remember that is it important to get outside and take a breath of fresh air”. In closing, she encouraged all to bring their families and tell their friends. I would concur, tt is a place I want to visit again with my friends.

You can find San-Lee Park at 572 Pumping Station Road, Sanford, NC and more information about the park at

Note: Special thanks to Lee County Parks & Recreation and HH Architecture for inviting the NCRPA staff to join you in the celebration.

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Tags:  50at50  Nature  parks  recreation 

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50 at 50 - September 15

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, September 15, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, September 13, 2017
One afternoon, I found myself in Rolesville. You might ask yourself, where is Rolesville. It is nestled in northeastern Wake County just outside of Raleigh. It is the second oldest town in Wake County and one of the fastest growing towns in our state for the past several years. After a visit to the parks and recreation office, I made my way to Main Street Park - located as you might have guessed at 200 South Main Street.

Main Street park is about 36 acres and was established in 2005. In addition to the four shelters, gazebo, open play field, and two playgrounds, the park has just over one mile of greenway trail. This greenway has exercise equipment that was added soon after the park opened before many other locations began to incorporate this feature into greenways. The town is currently working with Wake County Parks, Recreation & Open Space to connect the greenway in Main Street Park to their greenway at Mill Bridge Nature Park. From here, the greenway trails currently connect with the Wake Forest Parks & Recreation greenways giving citizens from both towns access to multiple greenways and parks.

Sanford Creek Elementary School shares a border with the park, and the greenway connects to the school’s multipurpose field. In the past, on National Walk to School Day, the Rolesville Mayor has met the kids in the park, and they all walked to school.

In my conversations with Parks & Recreation Director JG Ferguson at his office, he shared that earlier in the morning he had seen buses from 3 daycare centers in the park. During my visit, I was fortunate to see people of all ages enjoying the park. An older couple were walking the greenway, lots of kids were enjoying the playgrounds, and a family was having dinner at a picnic shelter. All wonderful ways to spend a summertime evening.

For more information on Main Street Park visit

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Tags:  50at50  parks  recreation  Rolesville 

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50 at 50 - September 8

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, September 8, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, September 6, 2017
I recently made a trek to the Piedmont region of our state and had the opportunity to stop in Kernersville. Just a few miles off I-40 and near the heart of downtown I found Harmon Park. When looking for a park on the town’s website, the story of this park is what attracted me to it. When I talked to Parks & Recreation Director Ernie Pages and got more information, I was delighted I made this my pick.

This is the first park for the town of Kernersville and it became a park in the 1930’s. It is named after D.W. Harmon who served as the Town Clerk in the 1920’s. Upon his death, he bequeathed part of his land to the town to become its very first town park. On the corner of the property is a little house. This house served as Mr. Harmon’s office, and later as the town hall, police department, library and now is the office for the Kernersville Little Theatre.

At just over 2 acres, this park has a lot going on with a picnic shelter, wedding gazebo, fountain, playground, open space and flower garden. I noticed that most everything in the park had a plaque dedicating the item to the memory of someone. On the town’s website, I found out that in the spirit of Harmon’s original donation many other town citizens have donated additions to this park over the years.

Harmon Park is the site of the first Declan’s Playground built in honor of Declan Donoghue and his spirit of play. Declan passed away at the age of 2. In lieu of flowers, the family asked for donations. Due to his love of playgrounds, his family worked with the town to build a playground in his honor and donated 40-50% of the cost. With a second Declan’s Playground at another Kernersville park, the family has also built or planned playgrounds in Greensboro and High Point.

As I was taking a few pictures at the park, a lady spoke to me and said she and her grandson came every day. I questioned her on the everyday part and she said, “yes, every day.” She is his daytime caregiver and every morning he asks to go the park. So that is what they do. Hearing of his love for the park and playground made me smile. If you ever question if our profession has an impact, hearing a story like this should give us all affirmation that it does.

I wish my schedule that day had allowed me more time to just sit on a bench, listen to the fountain and watch the kids play. With several picnic tables and its proximity to downtown, I can imagine it is a popular spot at lunch time on pretty days. Maybe on a return visit, I will be able to do just that.

For more information on Harmon Park visit

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Tags:  50at50  Kernersville  parks  Recreation 

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50 at 50 - September 1

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, September 1, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Welcome to September and what has been an unseasonably cool week.  I recently made a trip to the Town of Wake Forest where I met Director Ruben Wall, Athletics Superintendent Ed Austin and Recreation Program Superintendent Monica Lileton.  While in their office, I got to see the graphic they are using to check off the 150 standards of CAPRA accreditation and their Road to Indianapolis!  

After visiting a few of their parks, we found our way to E. Carroll Joyner Park.  The park is 117 acres and became part of the Wake Forest park system in 2009. This park currently has 33 unused acres and will be the site of a new community center scheduled to come online in 2019. This land was once owned by the Walker Family, and there is a flower garden dedicated to them along with several farm buildings.  Just before becoming a park, the property was owned by E. Carroll Joyner and was used as a cattle farm for 35 years.  

With no ball fields or playgrounds, it looks like a passive park, but there is so much to do there.  With a 1000 seat amphitheater and 171 parking spaces, it is good to have space for overflow parking.  The park hosts summer concerts, movie nights and about 20 events each year.  There are 3.1 miles of greenway in the park.  On the day I was there, outdoor fitness equipment was being installed along the greenway.  The park maintenance facility is on the backside of the park, and they have a tree nursery where volunteers grow trees to be used in the park system.  Joyner Park is the site of weddings and a popular location for prom and family photo shoots.  

There were three things that stood out to me.  First was the pecan grove. This area has probably 15-20 mature pecan trees that form a shady area in the park and provide pecans for citizens.  The second was an impressive free-standing rock wall with only gravity and well-placed rocks holding it together.. The rock walls are located around the park and compliment the ‘farm feel’ of the park.  Lastly, is a natural area that is part of the Butterfly Highway. The meadow is a refuge offering food and shelter for the Monarch Butterfly and Eastern Meadowlark.

And while we were approaching the pecan grove, a young deer couldn’t decide which way to go with us coming from one direction and a young boy coming from the other.  With that "deer in the headlights look," it sprinted away, and every time it got to the asphalt greenway, it leaped over it providing smiles and entertainment to us. 

If you are in the Wake Forest area, check out E. Carroll Joyner Park for yourself. More information is available at 

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Tags:  50at50  parks  recreation  Wake Forest 

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50 at 50 - August 25

Posted By MICHELLE WELLS, NC RECREATION & PARK ASSN, Friday, August 25, 2017
Updated: Thursday, August 24, 2017

This week’s post is from South Carolina and a trip that has been in the works since late 2016.  I went to Lake Hartwell to be in the path of totality of the Great American Eclipse and it was AWESOME!  Lake Hartwell is a man-made reservoir bordering Georgia and South Carolina on the Savannah, Tugaloo, and Seneca Rivers. The lake is created by Hartwell Dam located on the Savannah River and comprises nearly 56,000 acres of water with a shoreline of 962 miles. 

An extended weekend camping trip was the best way to avoid traffic.  We camped at Twin Lakes Campground which is one of the 9 campgrounds managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Hartwell.  The Twin Lakes area also has a day use area with shelters, swimming beach, boat ramp and fishing pier.  

When not swimming or floating in the lake, there were ample opportunities for bird watching.  Lake Hartwell is home to more than 250 species of birds.  When we first arrived, we were greeted by a hawk at our campsite and over the course of our stay, we saw great blue herons, ospreys, and numerous other birds.

The main attraction was the eclipse.  With eclipse viewing glasses in hand, we watched as the moon first crossed in front of the sun.  As 2:37 pm approached, the excitement began to build. The people at the swimming beach got quiet and came to the water’s edge.  The temperature cooled and the sky darkened. Then it happened. The moon completely blocked the sun from view and the corona was visible for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds!

Since this experience, I have found it hard to find the right words to adequately describe what I experienced. Fabulous, amazing, remarkable, breathtaking, and unbelievable are some of the words that come to mind.   

If you were in NC, where most saw only 90-95% totality, you missed the real show!  I encourage you to put this on your bucket list.  Your next opportunity to view a total solar eclipse in the contiguous US is April 8, 2024. The path of totality will enter at Texas and exit through Maine.  That is just a little less than 7 years from now.  Based on the number of people who saw the eclipse on Monday and those who missed it and say they will be in totality in 2024, I think it is time for all of us to make our plans!

For more information on Lake Hartwell visit

PS - it is fun to demonstrate the eclipse with an orange and sausage patty as shown in one of the photos

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Tags:  50at50  eclipse2017  parks  recreation 

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