Durham parks and facilities rejuvinated

By Allie McCoy
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE


Lupe Lopez has been bringing her children to Sherwood Park since they moved to Durham in 2009.

“Going to the park with my friends was one of my favorite childhood memories and I want my kids feel the same way,” she said.

Crime has become an issue in many parks in Durham, especially within the “Bull’s Eye”.  This sign at Twin Lakes Park (435 Chandler Rd.) put up by the Durham Police Department alerts residents to report any crimes.  (Photo by Allie McCoy)

Crime has become an issue in many parks in Durham, especially within the “Bull’s Eye”. This sign at Twin Lakes Park (435 Chandler Rd.) put up by the Durham Police Department alerts residents to report any crimes. (Staff photo by Allie McCoy)

As the Northeast Central Durham community begins to revitalize, the city of Durham is making strides to update park facilities, some of which have not been touched in 50 years, according to Beth Timson, assistant director for development for the city of Durham’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“Making a park that is what the community wants is ideal,” she said.  “But sometimes you can’t satisfy everyone.”

Within the past year, Sherwood, East Durham and Long Meadow parks have received new playgrounds.  Combined with the new recreational facilities at the Holton Career and Resource Center and Long Meadow’s new pool, Durham Parks and Recreation is striving to bring the community together through recreation.

The Holton Center, 401 N. Driver St., represents an interlocal agreement between Durham Public Schools and Durham Parks and Recreation, and is one of the newest facilities for the city.  The center provides vocational training for Durham Public School students – and offers $5 haircuts for the public from the barber students – as well as recreational opportunities and health services offered through Duke University Health Systems.

“Holton seems to be what the neighborhood really wants and needs,” said Lopez.  “Getting to a medical center is really hard for a lot of people in the area.  I know neighbors of ours who have travelled all the way to Chapel Hill just to get good [medical] help.”

Timson expects Twin Lakes Park, 435 Chandler Road, which has a high soccer use, to expand as the city purchases more of the surrounding land to install artificial turf to accommodate the growing usage of the fields.

Also, East Durham Park at 2500 E. Main St. recently received a new, state-of-the-art playground, which is used by neighboring Y.E. Smith Elementary School on a daily basis.

According to Cynthia Booth, public affairs specialist for the city of Durham’s Parks and Recreation Department, Durham was one of 95 recipients of the 2009 Playful City USA communities award by KaBOOM!, an organization with the goal of creating a safe place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

“The usage of the different parks have changed over the years, so we’re trying to accommodate these changes,” said Timson.  “Particularly, we have noticed as the ethnicity of the area changes, so does the use of the park.”

In response to community activism, Sherwood Park, which is located at 2325 Cheek Road, will have its tennis courts converted into lighted basketball courts.  Timson said to accommodate the growing Latino population, the department plans to convert the seemingly abandoned and overgrown baseball diamond into a futsal court, a popular variant of soccer.

“Sometimes park changes are driven by the citizens themselves, like the new skate park [in Durham Central Park],” said Booth.  “[Residents] hounded the city until they got approval for the park.  That’s one way changes are made.”

She said in communities where neighbors come together parks are able to flourish. These parks become an extension of the neighborhood’s tone and tenor, unfortunately they sometimes becomes a reflection of the amount of crime.

For Lopez, crime is not a main concern in Northeast Central Durham’s parks.

“I have never felt unsafe or nervous at the park with my children,” she said.  “But I know better than to come here at night.  A lot of the parks are beautiful during the day and have lots of forest and land, but at night it’s very different.”

Timson agreed to a degree: “Crime is a problem in any park in [Durham],” she said.  “We have 10 parks that are flagged as the most crime ridden.  All 10 are not in Northeast Central Durham, but some are.”

To deal with the issues of safety and illegal dumping, especially at Sherwood, the department of parks and recreation will install motion sensing security cameras to catch illegal activities occurring in the park after dark.

“The reason we chose to live in Durham was the amount of children we saw in the neighborhood,” said Lopez.  “It’s wonderful that the city wants a safe and fun place for these kids to go.  I think it keeps them safe and out of trouble.”

Web links:

DPR Activities Catalogue: http://www.durhamnc.gov/departments/parks/pdf/playmore.pdf

DPR Calendar of Events: http://www.durhamnc.gov/departments/parks/calendar.cfm

KaBOOM!: http://www.kaboom.org