Wake County

Raleigh Planning Commission member installs hundreds of flags at Dix Park

With help from thousands of pink survey flags, one city planning commission member is hoping to bring more people to the former Dix hospital site near downtown.

On Tuesday afternoon, Matt Tomasulo and five volunteers planted 4,399 pink survey flags throughout Dorothea Dix Park, creating small trails that will lead visitors around city-owned portions of the property. Tomasulo called it a simple gesture to say thanks to Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Gov. Pat McCrory for making possible Raleigh’s purchase of the former psychiatric hospital campus.

“It’s also a little kick in the butt to the people of Raleigh to come out and explore the park,” he said.

After years of negotiation, the city bought the 308-acre campus from the state for $52 million last year, but it hasn’t drawn up a park plan.

The flags, each one representing 100 Raleigh residents, are to help visitors explore the new city property. Experiencing the park will be key in figuring out what will become of it, said Tomasulo.

“Raleigh will discover what the park means for people,” he said. “Getting people out here will be very powerful.”

The city created a special email account to collect suggestions, but a formal process for deciding the park’s use hasn’t been established.

This isn’t the first time Tomasulo has pushed Raleigh residents to consider doing something out of their normal routines. In 2013, he created Walk Your City, installing signs in pedestrian-friendly areas of the city to encourage people to walk instead of drive.

Tomasulo isn’t sure how long the Dix flags will stay up. He made sure the city’s mowing and leaf-blowing schedules spare them for a few weeks, but it wasn’t clear whether the flags were actually allowed.

Mechelle Hankerson: 919-829-4802, @mechelleh