Raleigh looks to the future of more parks

March 30, 2014 

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There has been no shortage of “input,” as they say, from Raleigh residents who are full of ideas about what the city’s park system ought to look like and how it ought to develop over the next 20 years.

The city has held meetings to gather public opinion, and there’s been no shortage of it. These residents know that skyscrapers may define a city for business leaders and might make for a nice big-city postcard, but it’s in places like parks that a city’s soul is nurtured.

City planners and other officials have about $100 million worth of ideas about what kinds of parks people would like to see. They include parks for dog-walking, for biking, for hiking or for just enjoying family time. And they should include a couple of more places like Pullen Park and Chavis Park, with carousels and trains and boat rides – if a lake’s available, great, but those circular pools with rotating boats are cool, too – and climbing bars and the like.

How badly does the city need more parks and recreational areas? Try to take the young ones to Pullen Park near the city’s center on, say, a sunny Saturday afternoon. The renovated park, with so many terrific attractions including that historic carousel and the small train that goes around the property, is understandably jammed.

Memo to City Hall: That means there’s a “market” for at least two more Pullen Parks in this growing community.

Parks are nothing new to the city. They were on the plans for the development of Raleigh dating back to the late 18th century. Today, there are 6,100 acres of park land. Not bad, but probably not good enough.

Some parts of the city, North Raleigh and Southeast Raleigh, for example, have felt the need for more park-like amenities, and they do need them. A bond issue, fairly soon, would be appropriate.

The great thing about throwing open the subject for comment and suggestions from citizens is that planners can stretch their imaginations. There might be park possibilities near schools that already have ball fields. There could be parks devoted to athletic events (softball, soccer) or exclusively to nature trails. Parks also should be designed to bring people together, to get them participating in games or walking trails that will encourage a sense of community.

Twenty years is not so far to look ahead. And foresight will help the leaders of the city 20 years hence look at the 20 years after that. And so on.

The City of Oaks needs to be the City of Parks. They could even have oaks in them.

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