This week I’m doing something slightly different with our park visits. Instead of being a regular patron exploring the parks, I’ll be a volunteer with the Raleigh Jayeces during the 2011 PONY National Softball Tournament. This girls youth softball tournament brings teams from mainly the east coast and Canada to parks throughout Cary, Garner, Holly Springs, and Morrisville. Pool play began this past Saturday, but since I was out of town this weekend, I’m catching up on my volunteering with a few evening shifts this week (with Ashley in tow). The stormy weather in Richmond, VA on Saturday prevented Ashley from seeing the Richmond Squirrels baseball game so I’m sure she’s excited to catch a glimpse of her first live softball game.
PONY Baseball and Softball is designed to “Protect Our Nation’s Youth” by providing experiences in youth baseball and softball that will help young people grow into healthier and happier adults. Since 2007 the Raleigh Jaycees have hosted the tournament and this year they are co-hosting the tournament with the NC Challengers. Check the PONY website for the tournament schedule of age groups and games.
As a member of the Raleigh Jaycees I get this unique opportunity to volunteer during the girls softball tournament, which is quickly becoming one of the area’s signature sporting events. So, come on out to a park this week, purchase a day pass, and catch some thrilling softball games. You’ll certainly be greeted by folks with a friendly smile and helpful information!
North Hills park is located at 100 Chowan Circle in North Raleigh. Overall this is a basic neighborhood park with B+ features. As you arrive there is a medium-sized parking lot with a nice lighted baseball field on the right. It has bleacher seating for the spectators and a water fountain near the far team’s bench area. The adjacent grassy hill also provides plenty of additional seating.
At the top of the grassy hill is a building for restrooms and the Buffaloe family cemetery.
If you continue driving past the baseball field you arrive at the back parking lot near the two lighted tennis courts, playground, pavilion with picnic and access to the greenway. The playground has several connected jungle gyms with a hard mulch base and a smaller sandy playground. The pavilion has 6 picnic tables and a nearby charcoal grill. The wide, paved sidewalk provides easy from the parking lot around the playground and pavilion.
The access to the greenway is near the tennis courts. This is the North Hills Segment of the Crabtree Creek Trail and it is 1/4 mile of steeply sloped paved pathway. Going down isn’t bad, but pushing the stroller back up was quite a workout! I would definitely recommend the baby bjorn for this segment. The trail tees into the Crabtree Creek Trail, where if you go left you’ll head south towards Lassiter Mill Park and if you turn right you’ll head north towards Shelley Lake.
It’s amazing to think that under all these overpasses and adjacent to creeks and roadways exists this other world of trails. Navigating through the greenways really helps you get a better sense of direction and helps you realize how close these parks really are to each other. It sort of reminds me of a foreign place like Middle Earth in LOTR. I encourage you all to explore the greenway. A lot of the trails are paved and shaded and would make for a great adventure with dogs, loved ones, or a group of friends. So, pick a greenway segment, find a parking lot, and explore!
Thumbs up: quality of amenities, large parking lots, large playground, easy access to greenway, sidewalk access to pavilion and playground areas
Thumbs down: no sidewalk from baseball field to playground area
The new Isabella Cannon Park is officially open! I had the great pleasure of attending the grand opening on Monday night with about 100 other fellow neighbors, kids, city leaders, and Raleigh Parks & Rec staff. Mayor Meeker and Councilman Crowder along with others spoke about Isabella Cannon and congratulated everyone on a job well done with the project. Mayor Meeker noted that Isabella Cannon served as Raleigh’s mayor from 1977-1979 and passed away in 2002 at the age of 97. She was also the first woman to serve as a capital city mayor in the U.S. and was elected during a turning point in Raleigh.
Isabella Cannon Park is located at 2601 Kilgore Ave inside the beltline. Even though there is no parking lot, there is plenty of side-street parking. The main entrance on Kilgore Ave has a very wide path, making it an inviting place to come. There are additional stairway entrances near the intersection of Everett Ave and Gardner St across from the Rose Garden.
Heading up the main entrance path is a beautiful stone entry wall in front of an open field surrounded by a concrete walkway. If you follow the path to the right you’ll see the renovated basketball courts, updated landscaping, playground with swing set, jungle gym, and see saws. The playground has both a mulch base and a sandy area with several picnic tables and benches scattered throughout.
Beyond the playground is a new stairway to the unpaved and more densely wooded area that has a charcoal grill. Continue on and you’ll find the stairs leading up to the entrance at Everett Ave and Gardner St.
If you’re back on the concrete walkway continuing around the open field you should notice the newly planted Knockout Roses behind the entry wall symbolizing Mrs. Cannon’s love for the Rose Garden. Along the walkway there are several comfortable benches to rest on or enjoy the views of the open field (still closed off to allow the grass to grow). Once the grass grows in, it will be a great place for a flag football game! There is a also new pavilion with 4 picnic tables on the far side of the path.
Continuing past the pavilion you’ll come to the most unique feature of the park: a small rock climbing area! The base has some padding to soften any falls and there are rules posted for climbing the rock. According to some of the speakers at the event this is the only park in Raleigh with a rock climbing area. The pathway extends up Kilgore Ave to the intersection of Latta St where the park ends. There are more benches in shady areas and new landscaping to enjoy.
Being at the grand opening really gave me a sense of what a community is all about. The renovations for this park were provided by the 2003 bond referendum and from hearing the speakers thank those involved it sounds like the entire project from soliciting the community’s ideas to developing the master design plan to executing the project achieved the goals that were set forth…bringing a community together! I only wish I had gotten involved with the UPHA years ago.
Thumbs up: rock climbing area, sense of community, pathways, benches, playground, basketball courts, picnic area
Sorry folks, park’s closed…the moose out front should’ve told ya! Nothing like a good John Candy clip from National Lampoon’s Vacation to get your Friday in gear!
Well, Isabella Cannon Park is closed for renovations right now, but a few weeks ago I walked down with Ashley and took some pictures from afar. Wow! The renovations to the park look awesome! This park (formerly Gardner Street Park) has gone from dark and creepy to bright and inviting.
It is located across from the Rose Garden at 2601 Kilgore Ave. The main entrance is at the Gardner St/Kilgore Ave intersection, but there’s also a stairway entrance at the Everett Ave/Gardner St intersection. Just remember not to enter the park until it’s officially opened. They are having the Grand Opening on Monday, July 18th at 5:30pm, but I thought it’d be nice to show you a few sneak peeks of what’s to come:
Early next week after the grand opening, I’ll post a complete review of the park. In the meantime, visit the City of Raleigh’s Park and Planning website to learn more about current projects.
My mom visited this past weekend so on Friday morning we headed out to Anderson Point Park at 20 Anderson Point Dr in east Raleigh. This park is bordered by 264/64 bypass on the north, the Neuse River to the east and Crabtree Creek on the west. From the park you can also access the greenway via the Neuse River Trail which is over 4.5 miles of unpaved trails. Here’s a satellite view of Anderson Point Park from Google Maps.
When you arrive at the park, go around the cul-de-sac to the far left to the parking lot. From there we found a very helpful park map detailing all the features. We then walked by the Large Shelter and headed left along the main trail, which is about 3/4 mile loop. The shelter is a large pavilion with several picnic tables, restrooms, and an adjacent open field with a back stop.
Walking along the paved trail we first came to the amphitheater. It’s a beautiful stone-terraced amphitheater with lush green grass at each level. At the bottom is a large tree surrounded by a stone wall with benches and swings along the perimeter. The tree provides great shade for picnics or reading on a hot day. My mom did comment on how difficult it might be to see any type of performance at the bottom due to the hedges at each terraced level.
Back on the trail we followed the spiral pathway up to the scenic overlook. There’s a circular flower garden at the top surrounded by a stone wall perfect for sitting and enjoying the views of the park. There are also several covered swings at the top great for relaxing and taking in the scenery.
Continuing on, we passed bluebird trails and bird houses that attract martin birds. Luckily my mom, who is a bird enthusiast, was with us to identify the bird houses. The surrounding natural vegetation still allows for great views of the park.
Next, we came upon a large open field with a backstop across from the Retreat Cottage. The cottage can be rented for conferences and events and contains a small nearby parking lot to use.
Close to the cottage is the Small Shelter, which is a covered pavilion with several picnic tables and restrooms. It has an adjacent open field surrounded by crape myrtles and magnolias. Nearby there is also an information board with details about renting the various shelters, open fields, and Retreat Cottage.
Next on the trail is the largest playground I’ve ever seen. Part of the playground is covered in a mulch base and part is a sandy base. There is a large jungle gym, multiple swing sets, and several teeter totters with plenty of seating along the perimeter and sloped, grassy hill. The entire playground area is full sun, so be sure take a break at the nearby water fountain. The Small Shelter would be perfect for birthday parties with the playground being so close!
Continuing on, we arrived near the entrance, which has several shade trees and swings overlooking a large part of the park. The signs are helpful in directing you to the various parts of the park.
We followed the trail back to the parking lot and headed out of the park, but not without stopping at the canoe launch that we passed on our way in. Park in the lot there to get on the Neuse River Trail or head down the gravel road to the launch area for the Neuse River.
This is a great open park with lots of unique amenities surrounded by a paved trail that is perfect for walking the dogs and babies or going for a run. We had a fun morning with lots of exploring, so we finished off our adventure with cupcakes from The Cupcake Shoppe!
Thumbs up: scenic overlook, shelters, open fields, access to greenway, canoe launch area, playground, beauty of amphitheater, birding
Glen Eden Pilot Park seems small and uninviting at first glance, but boy does it pack a punch! This park is located at 1500 Glen Eden Dr just outside the beltline. When I first pulled up I immediately noticed the empty parking lot and ugly stone building. I was carrying Ashley in her car seat due to lack of signs about trails so I figured I’d take a few pics with nothing to report and we’d head home. The main building is not staffed and was locked but can be rented by calling the Jaycee Comm Center at 831-6833. Next to the building I passed some stairs so we decided to walk down them. At the bottom I was pleasantly surprised to see a paved walkway and a gravel path that seemed like you could access it from Glen Eden Dr. My gut told me maybe there was more to this park than I initially thought, so I went back to the car, put Ashley in her stroller, headed on the narrow sidewalk and turned left out of the parking lot onto Glen Eden Dr. We found the secret wheeled-access path and met back up with the paved walkway.
As we continued we passed a small pond for fishing and then came upon this open space oasis! I felt like we had just entered the secret garden! There is a large pavilion with 5 picnic tables, large open fields, 2 basketball courts, and a playground area all adjacent to this 1/4 mile loop paved trail. There are benches and a water fountain near the basketball court. The playground has a swing set and 2 jungle gyms. The large open spaces would be great for picnics or flag football.
We walked past the basketball courts and found another entrance to the park with a small parking lot at Carlow St and Eden Croft Dr. This is a much more suitable entrance for visitors with strollers or in wheelchairs.
From the trail we also came across a secret set of tennis courts. There are 4 courts and 1 court for single play against the backboard. The sign on the courts said to reserve the courts through Raleigh Tennis or use them on a first-come first-serve basis. There is also a separate entrance for the tennis courts although I couldn’t access the parking lot because of having the stroller.
As we headed back on the trail I enjoyed how the birds were drowning out the noisy nearby I-440. We had the entire park to ourselves, but I couldn’t help but imagine how much more popular this park could be if only a few signs were posted in the parking lot advertising “spectacular basketball courts, playground, picnic tables, and tennis just a few 100 yards away!”. Here’s a satellite view of the park from Google Maps of the entire area so you get a feel for what it looks like from overhead.
Thumbs up: peacefulness, open space, tennis courts, basketball courts, playground
Thumbs down: wheeled access from Glen Eden Dr entrance, lack of signage throughout park, lack of information at main building
For our next greenway trip we visited the portion of Reedy Creek Trail that begins at Meredith College and extends to the I-440 pedestrian bridge. There is not a parking lot on the Meredith College side, but there is plenty of street parking on the nearby neighborhood streets. The intersection is busy so use the crosswalks. We live about 1/2 mile from Meredith College so we walked to the trail and began our journey.
The trail begins near the soccer complex on Meredith’s campus at the intersection of Hillsborough St and Gorman St. It is rather wide and paved so it’s perfect for strolling the babies or hitching them behind a bike. You won’t find any picnic tables or benches along the trail with the exception of a bench when you reach the pedestrian bridge. It’s also a pretty popular trail as it provides access to the NC Art Museum where you can then toggle over to Umstead Park.
The distance from Meredith to the pedestrian bridge is 1.3 miles. There’s not much to look at along the way except for the few glimpses of the college campus to the right. The left side of the trail is heavy brush, which helps conceal the noises from neighboring I-440. After you pass the old soccer field, you’ll go up a steep hill and through a tunnel (Wade Ave is above) and then immediately up another steep hill to the entrance of the pedestrian bridge. Be careful of the current construction around the tunnel.
The pedestrian bridge is an amazing engineering structure that connects the campus to the Museum Park. Construction was completed in 2005. Once you cross the pedestrian bridge you enter the Museum Park preserved by the NC Museum of Art. We had been long enough by this time so we headed back. If you continue on the trail you’ll eventually come to the Art Museum, but we’ll save that portion of the trail for another day.
This would make a great trail to visit for the upcoming weekend! Happy Fourth of July!
Thumbs up: pedestrian bridge access, wide paved path, views of campus, map of greenway near entrance
Thumbs down: noisiness near I-440, lack of benches along trail
From playing sports, walking, and having picnics to viewing the numerous gardens there is such a variety of activities at Fletcher Park. Fletcher Park is located at 802 Clay St inside the beltline. Parking is available along Washington St or in the nearby parking lot. We parked in the large parking lot and began our stroll along the paved walkway. The entire park is magnificently landscaped. Follow the walkway and you’ll come across stone walls protecting the gardens, perfectly edged lawns, and beautiful gardens filled with varieties of crape myrtles, gardenias, magnolias, hostas, butterfly bushes, and daylilies.
Enjoy a picnic lunch on a bench, on the lush green grass, or in the amphitheater-style seating in the grass. There are plenty of private areas to lay a blanket down and soak up some sun with a good book too!
Next, we came upon the Borden house, which was built circa 1900. It has been restored and is available to rent for weddings and other events.
We then walked through the grass next to the Borden building to get a better view of the baseball fields below.
Afterwards, we walked through the grass behind the Borden house and came upon another paved walkway that backs up to residential homes. We passed several labeled species of daylilies.
As we followed the narrow path around, we discovered the water gardens that were under construction in 2008. First we came upon the Forebay, which is the deepest pool of the water garden.
We continued on and enjoyed the rest of the water garden and wetlands. There is a great wooden deck overlooking the wetlands, perfect for spotting wildlife and enjoying the views. Informational plaques located along the walkway and on the deck provide more details about the benefits the water gardens provide. It’s a great place for kids to experience; while there, we saw ducks, dragonflies, and butterflies! Here’s more information about the City of Raleigh Water Garden and Wetlands Project.
Across from the water gardens are the basketball courts and tennis courts. When Bill and I used to play tennis here it was always a very popular spot.
Across from the tennis courts you’ll see the art sculpture. Further ahead, you’ll pass the shaded playground area along Washington St. To the left there is also a large pavilion with picnic tables and a charcoal grill. If you continue on the walkway you’ll find your way back to parking lot. This is also a great place to visit on Sunday evenings in the summer for their free concert series! Bring a blanket and some snacks and have a fantastic evening!
Thumbs up: condition of basketball and tennis courts, scenic views, wetlands, water gardens, picnic spots, landscaping, free concerts
Thumbs down: lack of signage
I’ve only been to a handful of small towns in my life and this week I had the extreme pleasure of spending the week in Southport, NC for my brother’s wedding. He is marrying the lovely Rachael Anderson today and I couldn’t be happier for them.
We had a lot of free time this week before the wedding festivities began so I took my sister, Ginni, and Ashley around downtown Southport for some exploring.
After we walked through the shops we headed to the Waterfront Park & River Walk area (corner of Howe St and Bay St), which is located on the Cape Fear River. This is a beautiful spot to have a seat on a bench or swing and watch the boats come by. There are several small pavilions with picnic tables, but be careful of the seagulls if packing a picnic lunch.
Next to the Waterfront is City Pier, which is a popular spot for fishing. The moderate breeze from the river also helps cool down the hot and muggy NC summer days!
Continuing north on Bay St, you’ll come to Southport Community Building, which is where my brother and Rachael are getting married today! It has a gorgeous deck overlooking the river, which is where the ceremony will be held and a reception hall inside the building. There is parallel parking available on both sides of Bay St and stairs to access the building from the street.
Continuing north, we enjoyed watching the large boats return from trips at sea. The homes along the walk are also interesting to look at, especially given their historic, New England style. Each home has a plaque near the front door listing when it was built; most are from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Not having a final destination in mind, I was pleasantly surprised when we came upon another park along the river, Kingsley Park! Kingsley Park is at the corner of Kingsley Dr and Bay St and is only about 1/4 mile from the Waterfront area. This was an area where menhaden fishing boats used to dock decades ago. Menhaden fish are caught in nets and are mostly used for their oil and ecological resources, as they have too many bones for human consumption.
Kingsley Park has several benches, paved sidewalks, information plaques detailing the menhaden fishing industry and Hurricane Hazel destruction from 1954, and a long pier into the river.
Southport, NC is a fantastically quiet getaway with so much to do. Whether you’re walking around downtown, shopping, taking in scenes of the river, or eating at one of the local restaurants you’ll have a great time. From Raleigh, Southport is only 2.5 hours – perfect for a day trip and making wedding memories! Congrats again to Brandon and Rachael…can’t wait to celebrate with you tonight!
Over the years I’ve spent a bit of time biking (if you call it that) the Umstead Park trails between the NC Museum of Art and the Harrison Ave entrance. Having a new baby makes it a bit tough to get back into exercising, but when our hiking enthusiast friends from Hokie country, Greg and Randi, came to visit in May I made it a point to include Umstead Park in our weekend plans!
We were looking for a trail with some good views, shade, and moderate mileage, so we opted for Sal’s Branch Trail (only 2.75 miles). To get to Sal’s Branch Trail, turn into the park at 8801 Glenwood Avenue (Route 70) and continue on Umstead Parkway bearing right after the Visitor’s Center. We parked in the shady parking lot that is used for several of the hiking trails. We headed into the clearing above the parking lot in search of Sal’s Branch Trail. Despite walking around for awhile trying to find the beginning of the trail, we eventually found the trail head and began our adventure!
Shortly into our hike, we walked by Big Lake (no, I’m not making this name up). Feel free to fish or kayak, but don’t plan on any swimming as it’s not allowed.
Once you pass Big Lake, your journey will take you on a moderately sloped and well cleared trail. There were quite a few roots to keep an eye on, but we were able to successfully hike the trail with a baby and BTs without tripping. This is a great trail to take with a baby or young children and dogs as you’ll pass the Visitor’s Center during your hike, which offers a great resting spot or quick bathroom stop (some of the nicest bathrooms I’ve seen). Besides the scenic views around Big Lake there’s not much else to see other than the typical NC vegetation along the trail. However, Sal’s Branch Trail is great for getting some exercise with the baby and doggies.
Thumbs up: clear trail, visitor’s center, scenic views, doggie and baby bonding