Thursday, September 27, 2018

Hidden Park: Pearl Street Park

There are a number of compelling reasons to visit Pearl Street Park, hidden in plain sight on the edge of Uptown Charlotte. Reason number one is to acquaint yourself with a remarkable piece of Charlotte history.

Pearl Street Park, located across Kenilworth Ave. from the Metropolitan Shopping Center (the Trader Joe’s end), is easy to miss, but well worth a stop. A little bigger than eight acres, the park offers short walking trails, a full basketball court and open field space.

Within walking distance of the skyscrapers, it would be an excellent destination for a lunch-break stroll. And the paved paths that loop the park make for the perfect place for young ones to practice skating, scooting and bike-riding.
Whatever activities you decide to do there, the real draw for me is the opportunity to step into and appreciate the area’s rich historical significance.

Pearl Street Park was purchased by the City of Charlotte in 1943 and became the city’s first and only public recreation space for African American children and families. The land is in Charlotte’s Second Ward, which was home to the Brooklyn Neighborhood, Charlotte’s largest African American neighborhood – the center of black civic life – until the neighborhood was demolished in the 1960s in the name of urban renewal.

One of the park’s first uses was as a Victory Garden in World War II. During the war, the government rationed most food products and relied on citizens to provide their own fruits and vegetables, which were hard to harvest and deliver due to labor and transportation shortages.

Following the war and until the eventual (and slow!) park desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s, Pearl Street Park was an important social gathering space for African American families. It served as the athletic fields for the football and baseball teams at nearby Second Ward High School. At one time, in addition to playground equipment, trails and fields, there was a swimming pool on the grounds.

In 2005, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Heritage Committee dedicated Pearl Street Park as the first African American Park in Mecklenburg County, marked with a monument to memorialize its rich cultural heritage. Beside the monument is an audio history station where visitors can listen to and learn more about the park’s historical significance. To stand in the park space and realize what it represents is profoundly moving.

There are currently plans in the works to renovate Pearl Street Park as part of a larger redevelopment project on adjacent land.
Of note, Baxter Street Park is adjacent to Pearl Street Park and also offers walking trails and a community garden.

There are no restroom facilities at Pearl Street Park, though there is a porta-potty at one end of the soccer field.

Pearl Street Park is easy to miss, but I encourage you to be intentional about seeking it out for a visit. If for no other reason than to appreciate a piece of Charlotte history.

How to get there:
Pearl Street Park is located at 1200 Baxter St., Charlotte, NC, 28202. Parking is available on Baxter St. across from the Charlottetown Terrace apartment building. There is also a small lot off Kenilworth Ave.

Don’t forget to pack:
  • Comfy shoes: Take a stroll around the paved walking trail.
  • Soccer ball, basketball, bikes or skates: This is a great place to play or ride.
  • Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses: The park is partially shaded, but the recreation field is wide open.
  • Water: Bring as much as you think you’ll need; there are no restroom facilities to refill.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Stuck Inside!

I really like the concept of a cozy, rainy day at home. But, the truth is, I get antsy a couple hours in when we’re truly stuck. Those times when everything’s closed and the weather insists that we’re not going anywhere any time soon.

Here are some of the ways we make the most of a weekend like this.

Be glad, and share your blessings. As much as I hate feeling stuck inside, I’m well aware that we’re fortunate to have a safe, comfortable place to be when bad weather hits. And, with bonus time on our hands, this can be a good opportunity to consciously think about others and do something meaningful for them. Bake cookies to give to the power crew or fire fighters or a neighbor. Make and freeze a meal for the men’s shelter. Make a donation to the Red Cross. Check in on someone who may be feeling even more stuck than you, just to let them know you’re thinking of them.

Make something. We love to bake, so, as long as we have power, we’ll be churning out cakes and cookies and whatever else we have enough ingredients for. But it doesn’t have to be food. Here’s a great play dough recipe. Or, you can’t go wrong with arts and crafts. Color a picture. Paint a rock. Do origami. Make an “experiment” with things from the cupboard.

Take a weather walk. If it’s safe, getting outside can be a wonderful thing. Put on rain boots and a rain coat and grab an umbrella. Or not! Fresh air can be a game-changer. And getting wet doesn’t hurt, either.

Play something. Board games are the obvious rainy day go-to. But when interest or patience runs out, switch to indoor hide and seek. Or pretend play. Have everyone dress up as something and become characters in a narrative. Host a princess tea party. Build a hideout. Hold a parade.

Switch it up. If you’ve been playing together all morning, maybe everyone needs some alone time. Or maybe it’s time to gather everyone up for a group activity. If you’ve been sedentary, move around. If energy is low, pick up a book. Or, maybe you just need some random variety in the day. Nothing wrong with taking a bath before noon!

Accept and anticipate. The house is likely to get messy. Everyone in it will take at least one turn getting grumpy. Moods will swing. The fun will wear off. But, like the storm outside, this will pass.

We all stay so busy all the time that a “stuck inside” day can be a real gift. And quite enjoyable if you take a minute to think of ways to make the most of it.

Stay safe!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Rock Hill's Riverwalk

If you haven’t been to Riverwalk, part of the Carolina Thread Trail, in Rock Hill, pick a pretty day and grab your sneakers or throw your bike in the car for this excursion, less than 30 minutes from Uptown.
Riverwalk (officially the Piedmont Medical Center Trail) is a smooth, paved three-mile (one way) trail that meanders along the banks of the Catawba River. It is mostly flat, but includes some undulating stretches that keep it interesting. And some bridges, including one canopy-covered, add to the appeal.

This is a popular destination, but the 10-foot-wide paths easily accommodate both foot and wheel traffic (a perfect place for strollers, skates, scooters and bikes. Note: bicycle speed limit is 10 mph.).
The trail begins in a large gravel parking lot tucked behind the Riverwalk Community and next to the iconic Pump House restaurant (grab a rooftop lunch or dinner when you’re done exploring!). This parking lot has porta-potties, but no restroom facilities.
The trail ends at River Park, which is a lovely place to play and explore (consider starting your excursion from that end of the trail if you’d like!).
Both ends of the trail offer kayak and canoe launch spots. And along the trail you’ll find benches, garbage cans, and pet stations. The trail is lush, but only partially shaded, so don’t expect a tree-bathing venture. You can, however, expect a peaceful escape into nature.
Keep in mind, the trail is located in a flood plain and is subject to flooding, so keep the recent or forecast storms in mind when planning your visit.
How to get there:
The Riverwalk parking lot and trailhead are located at 575 Herrons Ferry Road, Rock Hill, SC 29730. 
Don’t forget to pack:
  • Water: Stay hydrated and pack plenty for during and after your excursion; there are no water fountains for refill.
  • Snacks: Bring a granola bar or two to keep your energy up.
  • Comfortable shoes: Sneakers will do.
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: The trail is only partially shaded.
  • Bikes, scooters, skates, strollers, etc.: This is a perfect trail for both feet and wheels. Don't forget your helmet!