Curtis Park Update

IMG_1553Back in June I headed home for two celebrations: what would’ve been my mom’s 58th birthday and the 40th Anniversary of Curtis Park.  As mentioned in my earlier post on Curtis Park, this is the park where I spent so many summers swimming and creating fun memories with family and friends.  Returning to a childhood place (after a long time has passed) definitely felt weird – the layout of the pool is as I remembered but the people are new (to me).  It was comforting to see a few former co-workers from when I used to work as a teenager and through college summers.  And I got to see an old childhood friend, Heather, who also works with the County of Stafford Parks & Rec.

It was a beautiful day to swim and celebrate the history of this pool!  With little ones we camped out in the large baby pool area, which had some great water features for littles – mushroom water fountain, small water spouts, and climbing dolphins fountains.  The edge of the baby pool has been updated with a brick surround, which was a simple, but classy upgrade.  We arrived right when the pool opened at noon so we immediately grabbed the shady spots in the baby pool area and loved that they provided so many kid-size chairs and picnic tables.

IMG_1555After a lot of time in the baby pool we headed to the big pool where Ashley got to show off her swimming skills to my aunt, who also came in from CA for the big celebrations.  I’m happy to report that the diving boards were available to use so several of us (even my brother) showcased our diving talents.  Several friends from Stafford also joined us and commented several times about how weird it felt to be back at Curtis Park after over a decade had passed.  Off in the grassy areas they set up several craft areas and had a huge water bounce house.  Near the concession area they set up a large grill and offered free meals to the first 100 people through the door.  The whole area was a bustling hub of kids and parents having a great time.

One of my favorite pieces of the day was the sweet poster my childhood friend and Parks & Rec staff member, Heather, made as a tribute to my mom.  It hung right outside the baby pool area and it was neat to see people stop and look at the old photos of her during the 10+ years she worked at Curtis Park.  I loved catching up with old friends and co-workers, seeing how the pool area has evolved over the years, creating new pool memories with my girls and nieces, and feeling the love from my mom who I felt was with us throughout the day.

Thumbs up: renovated bathroom area, fun baby pool area, diving board/deep-end open swim area, family-friendly community, concession area

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Curtis Memorial Park in Stafford, Virginia

IMG_0455After my mom’s sudden passing in March, my sister, brother and I immediately went into triage mode when it came to making sure her staffing business ran as usual and getting her personal affairs in order.  Before her funeral, we needed a break from all the new terminology we learned and responsibilities we acquired, so we set out with all the cousins and my aunt Jeanne to a special hometown park that meant a lot to our mom and was a big piece of our childhood, Curtis Memorial Park, in Stafford, Virginia.

Curtis Memorial Park (aka Curtis Park) is located at 58 Jesse Curtis Ln in the rolling hills of Hartwood’s farm country (more and more of that area is being developed now).  Growing up, we spent a lot of our time here; whether it was attending summer camp or the annual Easter Egg Hunts, taking swimming lessons, being on the swim team, going on spooky Halloween nature walks, having my birthday party, attending my senior year picnic, helping with soccer camp, or working at the front gate, we made a lot of memories with great friends and family.

IMG_0395Curtis Park features an olympic-size outdoor swimming pool with a large baby pool with splash umbrella and zero-depth entry, 18-hole Gauntlet golf course, nature trails, pavilions, sand volleyball, tennis courts, skateboard park, fishing lake, playground, baseball fields and large open fields.  As you drive into the park, you pass a beautiful tree-lined entrance road that leads to open fields adjacent to the tennis courts, skateboard park and playground.  Turn left before the open fields to access the Gauntlet golf course and small to medium-sized pavilions.  The playground features several slides, climbing structures, bridges, teeter totters, tot swings, regular swings and a sliding bar.  It is adjacent to a small pavilion and the tennis courts and backs up to a nearby nature trail.  The girls loved climbing all over the playground and spent a lot of time swinging together!

IMG_0441Past the open field is a large parking lot with access to the pools, nature trails and large pavilion on top of the hill overlooking the pool.  Further down the main road is the large lake for fishing and boating and more nature trails.  The main fishing pier and boat ramp is accessible from the other side of the lake on Stony Hill Rd (you must exit the park). After our playground time we picnicked on top of the hill, which offers the best views of the park. The girls enjoyed chasing each other while taking in the site of the drained pool below.  The Olympic-size pool has depths of 3ft and 4ft in the shallower end to 12ft in the deep end.  The baby pool features a zero-depth entry and splash umbrella.  The deep end has two diving board blocks, but with it being out of season when we visited I’m not sure if they actually allow diving.  I have very vivid memories of jumping off the since removed 3-meter springboard and 5-meter platform boards during off hours.  Being the daughter of the Aquatics Director had its perks!

While the kids were busy picnicking I ventured over to the nearby grave site of the Curtis family where about a dozen family members are buried.  According to the Stafford Parks & Rec website, the Curtis family donated land from their farm to the county to be used for recreational purposes.  The park opened in 1975 and is getting ready to have a big 40th anniversary celebration this weekend on June 20th.  We’re excited to come back for the big celebration and swim in the pool I grew up in!

My mom worked tirelessly to implement new amenities and improvements to the pool and programs, which created positive publicity in the local media.  Here are just a few of the fun ideas she implemented over the years:

  • She updated the baby pool to include zero-depth entry and water splash umbrellacurtispark 8
  • In 1990, she brought a 3-meter inflatable slide to the deep end, which was a huge hit with patrons but a big pain to her staff.
  • With scorching temperatures in 1991, she dropped in five 300-pound blocks of ice to try to cool things off.
  • In 1992, she organized meet and greets at the pool with local swimming and diving Olympians, Jeff Rouse and Mark Lenzi.  She went on to organize Olympic watching parties at the pool so folks could cheer on the local Olympians as they went for the gold (see local news stories from July and Aug 1992)!

My mom worked as the Aquatics Director of Stafford County from 1981-1993, where she managed the area pools and Aqua Po Beach, but was most proud of teaching swimming lessons to the area’s youth.  She met life-long friends and gave several teenagers their first jobs as lifeguards; we were honored to see some of those same teenagers and former coworkers again at her funeral service.  I am forever grateful for the memories I have at this park and can’t wait to come back this weekend for the 40th anniversary celebration, which happens to coincide with my mom’s birthday.

Thumbs up: beautiful pool and picnic settings, fun nature trails, one park with EVERYTHING

Thumbs down: I remember little shade around the pool

Optimist Pool

IMG_6721

It’s been a hot summer and the best way to cool off from the hot Raleigh heat is by hitting the pools! Most recently, we spent a lot of time at Optimist Pool while Ashley had preschool level 1 swimming lessons. I was on the fence about whether I felt she could handle lessons by herself (without me in the water), but ultimately I decided to go for it since she’s finished other preschool and recreational activities on her own. And, my decision proved to be the right one…she barely even looked back at me when the first class began.  On this particular pool trip we stayed after swimming lessons to swim in the baby pool and have a picnic.

Optimist Pool is in North Raleigh at 5900 Whittier Dr.  The main pool is a covered year-round Olympic-size pool with depths from 3’6″ to 5’6″ with several lap lanes and wide step entrances at both ends of the pool.  Ashley’s swimming lessons were mostly held in the shallower end of the pool on the wide steps with a few trips with life jackets on to the deeper end.  The instructor was super personable and even made time to chat with the parents after each class about each child’s progress.  The main pool building also contains several chairs and bleachers surrounding the pool and a small lounge area separated by glass.  The bathroom facilities were very nice with updated showers, lockers and bathroom areas.

IMG_6710The large baby pool and diving well areas are located outside and run on a seasonal availability.  The baby pool area is fenced in with a large rectangular pool with depths from 10″ to 18″ in the middle.  There are several deck chairs, a little grass seating, and a portable tent for some added shade.  Various floats and pool toys are allowed in the baby pool area.  Claire thoroughly enjoyed swimming in her shady float while Ashley continuously threw her body into the water.  The diving well features low and high diving boards with deck chairs and bleacher seating on the pool deck.  There are several picnic tables located between the outside and indoor pool areas.  With a toddler and a baby I found it most helpful to bring the single BOB stroller inside the pool area, which helped contain Claire and also provided more storage for all our crap.

By the way, I’m writing this post from my sister’s house in VA.  I’ve brought the girls down here for a few days to help house sit and take care of her dogs while my sister and bro-in-law await for baby Ava to be born…I’m so excited I could bust!

Resources:

  • The City of Raleigh has great small group swimming lessons, but if you’re looking for some private lessons check out what my friend Elaine, a former collegiate swimmer, has to offer at Miss Elaine’s Swim Lessons.
  • For more information about the other facilities at Optimist, read my previous posts.
  • For more information about other pool reviews, read my previous posts.
  • Visit the City of Raleigh website for more information about pool hours of operation.

Thumbs up: City of Raleigh swimming lessons, large baby pool area, clean bathrooms, helpful lifeguards/superb swimming instructor (Kenny), seating options

Thumbs down: nothing to report

 

Millbrook Pool

This summer we spent several evenings cooling off at our neighborhood pool and eating dinner poolside (what a great excuse for not cooking at home).  On one particular weeknight we walked over and then realized we forgot the pool had closed early because of a swim meet (ay dios mio)!  Needing a quick solution to a 2yr old desperately longing for some pool time, we decided to walk back home and head to Millbrook Pool, the city pool about 5 minutes away.  Even though the weather was looking rather threatening, we decided to chance it anyway.

Millbrook Pool is located at 1905 Spring Forest Rd in North Raleigh and is part of the Millbrook Exchange Park complex that includes a tennis facility, off-leash dog park, playground, community center, and senior center.  Millbrook has a main pool with lap swimming and open swim areas that is covered year-round.  During the summer season they open several garage-style doors to allow folks to easily get to the outdoor swimming areas.  Millbrook also has an outdoor baby pool and splash garden area that are only open during the summer.  The baby pool area is a large rectangle (no zero-depth entry) that is 18 inches deep in the middle.  It is fenced it with both concrete and grassy areas, but they do not allow picnicking in this area.  You can bring inflatable rings, noodles and other pool toys into the baby pool.  There are several picnic tables outside the baby pool that are both covered and uncovered, but it was still a pain with a little one that we couldn’t just eat in the grassy area.  The splash garden area is always a big hit with toddlers, but unfortunately the only entrance to that area is from outside the baby pool area.  It would be much more convenient to have another entrance directly from the baby pool area.

The indoor pool at Millbrook typically has 6 lanes dedicated to lap swimming with a depth from 4ft to 5 1/2ft.  The open swim area is a depth from 3 1/2ft to 4ft.  Again, there are several rules for swimming in the open swim area.  We were whistled at several times for various things – trying to borrow a noodle and using the kick board in the open swim area.  Needless to say we spent most of our time in the baby pool, but Ashley had recently discovered kick boards at our neighborhood pool and just had to get her exercise in.  Being about 39 weeks preggo, I enjoyed watching them swim together from the side of the pool!

Check out the City of Raleigh website for the pool’s hours of operation and fees.

Thumbs up: large baby pool area, indoor swimming option for non-summer months

Thumbs down: not being able to eat in the baby pool area, no direct entrance to splash ground area from baby pool, picnic areas had LOTS of flies

Lake Johnson Pool

img_2143This post originally appeared on Southwestraleigh.com where you learn more about how to live, work and play in the Creative District.

Are you looking for a fun way to cool off this summer in the Creative District?  Then head to Lake Johnson Pool where you can catch a tan, swim some laps, or let the little ones burn off some energy.

Lake Johnson Pool is located at 1416 Athens Dr, adjacent to Athens Drive High School.  Turn down the side street opposite Athena Woods Dr and continue until you see the pool sign on the left.  There is a smaller parking lot near the pool gate entrance and an overflow parking lot not too far away.  The building with the main entrance contains the locker rooms, vending machines, guard office, and a small shelter area.

After walking through the main building you have your choice of three different swim areas: wading pool, open swim and lap lane pool, and splash garden.  The wading pool is a separately fenced-in area with a water depth of 10-in to 18-in and a large spray fountain at one end.  There is a small canopy for shade near the gate and a large amount of deck space between the pool and fence.  With the pool just opening the weekend before and the lack of summer heat thus far, the water was chilly, but refreshing.

The splash garden is a separately fenced-in area that has a concrete deck with several fun water features.  It has several small fountains, two fire hoses, a spray fountain, and a water bucket feature.  There’s a small grassy area nearby for watching the little ones play.

The large pool area has an open swim area and a few lap lanes.  The water depth starts at 4 ft and goes up to 5 ft 6 in.  There’s a grassy area surrounding most of the pool with piles of plastic deck chairs for patrons to set out as needed.  Picnic tables are sparse, but there’s quite a bit of grassy area to spread out blankets and towels.  Also sprinkled around the pool are flower gardens, trees, and wind chimes.

Here are the operating hours and pool fees for Lake Johnson Pool:

Fees

  • Ages 1-12: Resident – $1/Non-Resident – $2
  • Ages 13-54: Resident – $3/Non-Resident – $6
  • Ages 55+: Resident – $2/Non-Resident – $4

Wading & Spray Pool

  • Mon-Fri: 9am-8pm
  • Sat: 10am-8pm
  • Sun: 1-6pm

Open Swim

  • Mon-Fri: 12pm-8pm
  • Sat: 10am-8pm
  • Sun: 1-6pm

Adult Lap Swim

  • Mon-Fri: 8am-8pm
  • Sat: 9am-8pm
  • Sun: 1-6pm

Lake Johnson Pool is open until September 3.  Visit the City of Raleigh website for more information about admission fees/policies and days of operation.

Thumbs up: landscaping inside pool, grassy picnic spots, fenced-in wading pool and splash garden

Thumbs down: locker room areas, lack of picnic tables

Lake Johnson Park

Picturesque. Serene. Beloved. All words to describe my recent visits to Lake Johnson Park.

Lake Johnson Park is located in the heart of southwest Raleigh at 4601 Avent Ferry Rd. Its popularity is evident with the many parking lots scattered throughout the park. On two of the mornings I visited, I had to loop around the lot a few times before a spot opened up. Other parking areas are highlighted on this map and can be found further down Avent Ferry Rd on the left, off Lake Dam Dr, at Athens Dr High School, or at Lake Johnson Pool.

The main entrance is where you’ll find the large veranda, deck, conference room, concessions, restrooms, rentals, live bait/tackle vending machines, and the boat put-in area. The veranda, conference room, and deck are available for rent. Paddle boats, jon boats, sunfish sailboats and canoes/kayaks are also available for rent. Rocking chairs along the perimeter of the deck provide peaceful views of the lake. There are also several picnic tables and information boards highlighting several of the unique park programs (boot camp, nature photography, fly fishing, sailing). Even though most have already begun, the fall programs such as the kayak and canoe lessons for ages 12+ are starting soon. Call 919-233-2121 for more information. Stroller Strides also runs fitness classes for moms/dads with kids on Tues/Thurs mornings and is beginning a mom/dad 5k training program on Friday, Aug. 26th.

Avent Ferry Rd splits Lake Johnson in half and there is a paved trail loop on the eastern half and an unpaved trail loop on the western half. The trail is the Lake Johnson Segment of the Walnut Creek greenway trail. Park maps can be found at several of the parking areas, but if you head east on the trail from the main entrance you’ll find a helpful map detailing distances and features of the park.

Distances around the park:

  • West Loop (unpaved, prohibited to biking) = 2.15 miles
  • East Loop (paved) = 2.75 miles
  • Full Loop = 4.33 miles
  • East to west loop from the bridge = 1.32 miles

East Trail – This is a wide, paved path perfect for biking, strolling kids/dogs, walking, and running. The trail is enveloped in large trees that provide great shade. You’ll find beautiful views of the lake throughout this trail, especially along the dam and boardwalk. You’ll also pass a few benches, swings, and shelters for rent along this trail. Shelter 2 has two picnic tables and a large charcoal grill and Shelter 4 has four picnic tables, several benches, and a large charcoal grill. Magnolia Cottage is a medium-sized building tucked deep in the woods that can also be rented for events. If you head clockwise on the trail from the main parking lot the trail starts off flat and then gets rather hilly after crossing the dam.

West Trail – This is a fun trail for hiking or trail running. Bikes are prohibited and I would recommend using a Baby Bjorn or back pack if bringing an infant/very young child. Use caution on the trail, as it is mostly a narrow, hilly, dirt trail with roots covering the path. Nature photography opportunities are galore on this trail. You can also access Lake Johnson Pool from the West Trail. Even though we didn’t have time for a visit inside the pool, from the outside there looks to be a spray garden, baby pool, and main pool with lap lanes and free swim area.

After a two year hiatus from visiting Lake Johnson Park until last week, I’ve been back three times and it is quickly becoming a favorite. Between the scenic views, boating opportunities, great running trails, and safeness of the area it’s a must-visit park!

Thumbs up: shady trails, scenic views, condition of paved trail, boating opportunities, security, facility rentals, mile markers along East trail, peacefulness

Thumbs down: confusing signage (especially along West Trail)

This post originally appeared on soutwestraleigh.com, where you can learn more about what a great place South West Raleigh is to live, work, and play.

Ridge Road Pool

With the summer heat in full gear there’s no better place to cool off than at the pool. This past week we explored Ridge Road Pool at 1709 Ridge Rd in Raleigh. It’s adjacent to Martin Middle School, so as you pass the school, bear right where you’ll find the pool parking lot. The crape myrtles in the parking lot provide shade while you’re relaxing at the pool.

The sidewalk leading down to the pool entrance passes by the nicely terraced landscaping and bike rack areas. Before heading into the pool, you have to stop by the front desk to pay the entrance fee. Since I’m a Raleigh resident and I had a child under 1, we only had to pay $3. Once you pay, you’ll pass the restrooms, the lifeguard office, and the life vest rental office.

Read moreRidge Road Pool