Rockwood Park in Chesterfield, VA

IMG_1594If you live around the Richmond, VA area you have to check out Rockwood Park in Chesterfield County.  While visiting Tech buddies in Richmond at the end of June we set out for Rockwood Park Nature Center’s annual Honeybee Festival and everyone (kids and adults) fell in love with this park!

Rockwood Park is located at 3401 Courthouse Road in Chesterfield County near the intersection of Hull Street Rd.  While the festival vendors were setting up outside, we stepped inside the park’s nature center and got to see a whole lot of slithering, crawling, squirming and buzzing animals.  The kids got to see several types of snakes (including a copperhead and corn snake), turtles (including a gigantic snapping turtle), bull frogs, a large iguana, and a live bee exhibit.  All of the permanent exhibits were at levels great for little ones to see all the action.  With the Honeybee Festival going on outside there was a very knowledgeable and friendly bee expert who described bee keeping to us and pointed out the queen bee in the hive exhibit.  This center also has a great reading nook with nature books and kid-size table with coloring activities.

IMG_1604After spending at least 30 minutes in the center, we headed outside to enjoy the bee festival activities.  The friendly staff helped the kids make pipe cleaner bee crafts and plant flowers.  Then they enjoyed listening to bee themed stories and having bees painted on their hands.  After exhausting the storyteller’s books we headed out across the field to explore the playground area.

IMG_0113The playground area is made for kids mostly 5 years and up, but that didn’t stop these almost 2-year olds and 4-year old from playing.   The playground has a small slide for younger kids that is connected to higher play areas by monkey bars.  There are several more climbing areas connected by ladders with access to twisty and straight slides.  With the recent rains the kids happily discovered the large mud puddle at the bottom of the twisty slide.  Tot swings and regular swings are nearby and several benches and picnic tables are also located in the playground area.  The entire area is mostly shaded by tall, mature trees and there are several more amenities (such as a dog park, pickleball courts, baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, pavilions) adjacent to the playground.  As someone who has spent a lot of time visiting family and friends in Chesterfield, I am excited to explore more parks in this area.

For a complete list of the amenities at Rockwood Park, see the County of Chesterfield website.

Thumbs up: live animals at nature center, friendly staff, variety of activities for young kids, shady playground area

Thumbs down: poor drainage near playground

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

Reedy Creek Trail: Meredith College to 440 Pedestrian Bridge

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.

Small bits of shade throughout
A small bridge you pass near campus
The old soccer field on campus
A steep hill you cover just before the tunnel
Current construction in the tunnel
Another steep hill up to the bridge (this pic is looking back towards 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.

Arriving at the bridge
One of the few benches along the trail
Ashley before crossing the bridge
Looking out towards I-440
On the other side of the bridge looking into the Museum Park

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

Hello World

So, what do you do when you have a new baby, are no longer working, and have lots of free time? #1 Get out of the house (baby cries are less ear-deafening with trees, cars, and people to absorb them) and #2 find free things to do. Since I’ve got baby Ashley with me we needed to find some appropriate mommy/daughter things to do (unfortunately free beer/wine tastings were out…so sorry Wine Merchant and Lonerider).

Growing up my mom spent a lot of time taking me and my brother and sister to the local county parks and pools in Stafford, VA so I thought it was only natural to introduce baby Ashley to the various parks throughout Raleigh.  Unfortunately the county and city websites in Raleigh lack a lot of details on each park and there’s not an easy way to search for what you’re looking for in a park.  So, we’ve decided to venture out to all the parks, playgrounds, trails, and pools in Raleigh and report back with photos, details, and our general feedback on each one.

My husband, Bill, and I have been to several of the Raleigh parks in the past but we were more interested in the bike trails and tennis courts.  With baby around now, I’m looking for even sidewalks, shade, and long trails.  Even though baby Ashley is years away from personally enjoying my crazy get-out-and-explore mentality I’m sure she’ll enjoy looking at the pictures and stories of our adventures when she’s old enough. Who knows…maybe she’ll take her daughter on similar adventures one day 🙂  So, here we are at one of our first adventures at Lassiter Mill Park:

Sitting at Lassiter Mill Park
One of our first adventures to Lassiter Mill Park