What makes a great park? While some succeed as lively public spaces others seem sparse with visitors. As more communities actively seek ways to create outstanding parks, it seems inevitable that the quality of them and their programs will improve.
With the importance of parks growing in the public consciousness, including being discussed at city council meetings, I sought out to find what distinguishes great parks from all the rest. While there is not a cookie cutter solution, some of our local parks have been true standouts. Parks that have created programs that tend to share certain elements account for a great deal of their success.
Here’s a list of three truly outstanding parks. Each example highlights particular strategies for achieving greatness and illustrates how these different strategies interact and enhance each other.
General Lee Park
General Lee Avenue
General Lee Park has been a staple for stay-at-home moms and their toddlers for many years. Families can be often seen picnicking on the park's lawn. The surrounding homes have residents who truly look out for each other.
One of those neighbors is a local family who restored their 103-year old historic Haymount property, known by locals as the Huske-Jordan home.
Dan and Ashley Culliton felt the sense of pride many of our neighbors share for the community, quickly realizing the potential that Haymount had to offer. This fostered their desire to contribute by helping to grow and further stimulate that spirit. After some discussion they decided the best way to do this was to put their business skills and contacts to good use by creating Happenin’ in Haymount (HIH).
For the past six months Dan and Ashley have worked diligently to build this non-profit community organization. HIH was created for the coordination of community activity and to ingrain a stronger neighborhood identity through active partnership and social engagement. It consists of a volunteer group of residents committed to improving our immediate Haymount area through various social functions, fundraisers, communal networking, neighborhood safety and crime prevention. Basically, they are bringing life, friendship and solidarity back to Haymount.
This past spring they were able to erect a brand new community bulletin board at the General Lee Park through local donation and corporate support. It has received an outpouring of positive community feedback and gratitude. They are now working to create an annual calendar of events, as well as a formal tier of directors and committees to aid in the rapid growth and regulation of the organization.
Their kick-off event back in March, Spring Fling Egg-Stravaganza, was a major success. Loaded with activities for the entire family, it included a 3,000-count egg hunt, music, bounce house, face painting, balloon animals, mobile video game theatre and party station with concessions, raffles, prizes and a very special visit from the Easter Bunny himself! Attending the event was District Councilman Bobby Hurst, the Chief of Police Harold Medlock, sanctioned Junior League of Fayetteville volunteers, as well as friends and family of the many local businesses that were gracious enough to donate to such an impactful and constructive new organization!
Most recently, they held their first annual AfterDark in The Park outdoor movie night event. It was an instant success. Featuring the family hit, “Madagascar”, they featured music, concessions, LED light up apparel and community vendors. The community really came together to make it all happen. Councilman Hurst was sure to volunteer his time and show all of his support that evening alongside neighbors at the concession stand.
“We have been very fortunate to have had such a positive response from our local area and cannot wait to see where this takes us as a community,” said Ashley Culliton.
Within the Haymount Community Organization, weekly clubs and neighborly groups have been implemented such as Mommy & Me Play Date, Yoga in the Park , newly forming Supper Club, as well as Sustainable Neighbors Group. Homes for sale go quickly in the quaint little community anchored around the General Lee Park.
Spring Lake Parks & Recreation
The Spring Lake Park System offers something for everyone of every age. Park facilities include Mendoza Park, Wilson Avenue Park, Odell Road Park and Ruth Street Park. From playground equipment to picnic tables, to baseball fields and basketball courts, the parks in Spring Lake offer outdoor fun for all.
Spring Lake also boasts a top-notch, multi-purpose community center and walking trail. If you’re looking to take the “scenic route” to getting fit, one feature within the park is the Spring Lake Path to Fitness. The Recreation and Parks Department sponsors an array of sports for youth of all ages. The program is very successful. Residents and non-residents can participate in the various sports the program hosts.
Ken Metcalf, the Recreation and Parks Director, oversees operations for Spring Lake. His role includes programming for the community center, the senior center, the network of town park facilities, all recreational activities, town sports coordinator, inter-local agreements and local gatherings.
A treasure of Spring Lake Parks & Recreation
In its 31st year, Mendoza Park has undergone massive changes thanks to a state grant to fund updated playground equipment, reconfiguring the athletic fields, a new scoreboard, water fountains and a concession stand. "It's been 14 years in the making," stated Metcalf proudly. "Funding is key to getting something of this magnitude completed."
Spring Lake serves 13,000 residents and Metcalf has nine full-time employees and four part-time employees. "With the economy the way it is today, I love the idea of families being able to take advantage of freebies. It costs money to renovate a park, but it serves families well."
Lake Rim Park
2214 Tar Kiln Drive
Lake Rim Park truly has something for everyone and their calendar is always chock full of programs throughout the year. My first experience at Lake Rim Park was a kids fishing derby set up for Father’s Day. Not being from a family of fishermen and having never caught a fish on a few trips to local lakes, I was dubious how the day would turn out. Much to my chagrin, the crew from the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center next door to Lake Rim Park had a well-organized plan. It included a stocked pond! Fishing poles and worms were available and no license was needed since it was catch and release. Some basic instruction was provided while kids and their dads were gathered around the lake for one of man’s favorite pastimes. Looking to try your hand? Their Fishing Tackle Loaner Program operates from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Throughout the year they offer seasonal activities like their scavenger hunts that are self-guided and free for families, groups or individuals. Some of the other programs include Tree I.D., Dinosaurs in the Dirt, Go Fly a Kite and the Wildflower Walk. Their educational group programs cater to larger school, youth groups or scouts with a focus on nature.
With "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" due out this fall, I'm sure your kids want to discover their inner "Katniss." Lake Rim’s Archery Clinics are designed to introduce the sport of archery to beginners. Although most participants are children, adults are welcome. Participants will use state-of-the-art compound bows as they learn the basics of archery. Safety, proper stance and follow-through will be taught. You will be hitting the bull’s eye in no time! Their next Archery Challenge Course is scheduled on Saturday, August 20th for ages 8 and older from 9 a.m. until noon for just $5. Participants will also get an introduction to field archery and 3-D archery.
Looking to explore the local waters by kayak? They offer a Kayak Trip on August 17 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for ages 12 and older for $35. All equipment and transportation will be provided. We recommend beginners participate in a lake tour before going on a kayak river trip to practice kayaking skills. Have your own vessel? Trips are offered at a discounted price for those providing their own boat and transportation. Space is limited. Register at Lake Rim Park by the Wednesday before the trip.
More Noteworthy Parks
Cross Creek Linear Park allows pedestrians to enjoy the quiet of the creek as they walk the path or enjoy the scenery from one of the benches placed along the way. The park will continue in future phases to link with other greenways in the area.
Pope Field’s park is at the end of the airfield. The park is entertaining with all the great age appropriate playground equipment and picnic tables. The best part is watching the C-130s take off and land from a few hundred meters. Bring the camera.
Mazarick Park features a disc golf course, walking trail, playground for little ones and tennis courts that operate as part of the city's public tennis program.
Honeycutt Park has a paved walking track around the perimeter of the playground equipment adjacent to the baseball fields and pavilion.
Arnette Park also has a walking path, tennis courts, picnic facilities and tennis courts.
Clark Park is the city’s second largest regional park and also serves as a nature center. It was designed to serve as a natural woodland area dedicated to preserving the environment and educating the public on North Carolina plants and wildlife. Three trails wind through the park and along the Cape Fear River.
COMING SOON: The Hermitage Park in Hope Mills has broken ground and is underway to accommodate city gatherings and serve as an educational outlet for the city's programs.