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

Caroline County Park in Ladysmith, VA

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During a recent family visit to Ladysmith, VA I inquired about the local parks, to which I heard crickets in response.  After an unsatisfying trip to the Caroline Parks & Rec website, I talked to my sis-in-law who is a teacher in Caroline and she remembered there being swings near the high school.  So on Sunday before heading home to Raleigh my sister and I met up with my sis-in-law and her daughter at Caroline County Park.

Caroline County is a small county of less than 30,000 people, but one that is steadily growing in businesses and population.  Caroline County Park is located across the street from Caroline Middle School around 13690 Devils 3 Jump Rd.  For a small town with assumingly small recreation funds, I was pleasantly impressed with the features of this park; however, the general upkeep needed some attention.  The park has a large shelter pavilion with horseshoes, a shaded walking trail, a skateboarding park, a playground area with swings, baseball fields, tennis courts, soccer fields, public restrooms, and ample parking.

IMG_6770The pavilion area was great in that it could hold large family gatherings with nearby parking, but the amount of trash scattered throughout the area was disturbing.  In reality, the problem seemed to be that the trashcans were light enough to be tipped over by small animals so some heavy duty trashcans with lids would probably solve that problem.  The nearby horseshoe pit and sand volleyball court would probably get more use if they were raked and maintained more frequently.

The nearby playground area was the big hit for our little crew.  It has a tall double slide, large climbing structure, one tot swing, one handicapped-accessible swing, and several regular swings.  Claire enjoyed sharing the tot swing with her sweet cousin, Emma!  The playground area has great shade cover, but plan to bring mosquito repellent next time – we left with quite a few bites.

After the playground we headed over to the skateboard park area to check it out.  By this time the skateboarders had left so Ashley brought her new (to us) scooter in to wheel it around.  After the scooter lost its appeal, she enjoyed running up and down the skateboard ramps.

IMG_6813All in all, this park had several great features despite some maintenance needs.  And, it was nice to see so many people enjoying the soccer fields so early in the morning.  Hopefully as the county continues to grow, more people will visit the local parks and draw more attention to what fun kids can have here!

Thumbs up: playground area, variety of features, skateboard park, shadiness

Thumbs down: general maintenance, waste pickup, lack of informative Parks & Rec website advertising the great features of this park