Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Airline Bike Park

Mountain bikers, trail runners and hikers, listen up: Airline Bike Park is calling your name. Located near the airport, about 20 minutes from uptown, this sprawling wooded recreation area offers trails for all interests and and skill levels. 

Built and maintained by the Tarheel Trailblazers, this six-mile, natural-surface, single-track trail system offers options ranging in difficulty from beginner to black diamond. Important to note, trails switch direction daily. Odd days are to be ridden clockwise, even days counter-clockwise. 

The Kitty Hawk loop, a 1.25-mile beginner trail, marked with green circle blazes is our favorite. This trail, accessible directly from the parking lot behind the map kiosk, poses minimal technical challenges. Rocks, roots and some short dips and climbs are the toughest obstacles. (Side note: Kitty Hawk is the one trail that doesn't switch directions; it is always ridden counter-clockwise.) 

Other trails offer various degrees of challenge. You can view the map and trail descriptions at the map kiosk, or check out this interactive map

This relatively new park is in a soft-launch phase and is currently open primarily on weekends and some occasional weekdays. Be mindful that trails close after rain. You can check trail status here

The parking lot is spacious, but does fill on pretty Saturdays and Sundays. Note: There are no restroom facilities; plan accordingly. 

When you go, you'll see folks ranging from hard-core mountain bikers to kids out for a spin. I like to follow the kids on foot while they ride. The trails are lovely for hiking as long as you keep an eye out for bikes and give them the right of way. 

If you haven't been, make Airline Bike Park a next new place to explore. I think you'll find it a nice option for getting out and getting moving, particularly on these pretty fall days!

How to get there
Airline Bike Park is located at 8101 Dixie River Rd., Charlotte, NC 28278. NOTE: The parking lot gate is currently open primarily on weekends and some weekdays here and there. Trails also close after rain. You can check trail status here

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Ballantyne's Backyard

You know the best thing about Ballantyne's Backyard Community Park? The preservation of green space. This golf-course-turned-recreation-area is a beautiful swath of nature that could surely have been destined for paved-over, bricked-up growth in this fast-growing, development-happy area of town. But kudos to whatever ordinance, foresight or community goodwill that persevered. 

Ballantyne's Backyard -- 100 acres of rolling green hills, miles of paved walking paths, and a catch-and-release fishing pond -- is an oasis for South Charlotteans who want to escape their corporate park cubicles, sprawling shopping centers and spaghetti junction traffic. 

Parking for this private park (owned and managed by Northwood Office) is abundant and free, as is space to walk, ride, play and picnic. (Not in abundance: Shade. But there is beauty in the open layout and there are pretty stands of trees along the perimeters of the park.) 

Open from dusk 'til dawn daily, this is a great area for a dose of nature. We especially enjoy the room to roam, birdsong, and ponds. Leashed pets are welcome and there are two restrooms, one at either end of the park. Here's a park map

On the second Saturday of every month, Ballantyne's Backyard hosts Markets at 11, featuring activities, local business vendors, music, food trucks and local beer from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

There's no question Ballantyne's Backyard was built to be -- and still largely resembles -- a golf course. From the sand traps (sandboxes!) to water hazards (fishing holes!), and even some leftover fairway signs and markers, you'll feel like you're on the links. But it's really a genius repurposing of land.  

I don't love the amount of manicured grass that's less than eco-friendly to maintain, but maybe planners will transition to a more natural landscape over time. Meanwhile, folks in and around Ballantyne can go ahead and count this "backyard" as a big win and a community asset. 

How to get there: 
Ballantyne's Backyard is located at 11611 North Community House Rd., Charlotte, NC, 28277. 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Wilmore Centennial Park

I love a good pocket park. Stumbling on one of these green recreational spaces is like finding a silver dollar in the junk drawer. A beautiful public oasis in the midst of the noise and jumble of urban development.

Uptown Charlotte has a number of these gems. Our favorites include The Green (425 S. Tryon St.) and Ninth Street Park (417 W. 9th St.). And, now, Wilmore Centennial Park. 

The 1.4-acre Wilmore pocket park is tucked neatly between the hustle and bustle of the fast-growing eponymous neighborhood. Located in the block bordered by South Tryon St., West Blvd., Hawkins St. and West Kingston Ave., the park is surrounded by shiny new buildings springing up in all directions (with the exception of the Bojangles' across Tryon St., which is actually the first and oldest restaurant of the chain). Here's a fun areal video if you want to get your bearings. 

Wilmore Centennial Park features a large, rolling, grassy lawn, capped at one end with a simple playground and a paved gathering area with seating. The entire park is beautifully appointed with thoughtfully designed gardens. There's also a designated "curbing area" for four-legged visitors (who are welcome at the park on a leash.) This is a great spot for a picnic, playing frisbee, or taking a short stroll along the paved walkway. 

As with many pocket parks, this is a hyper-local destination, meant largely for folks who live and work nearby. There's no designated parking, but there are some parallel street spots along the Kingston Ave. border. It's also in walking distance of a number of other nearby destinations and the Charlotte Rail Trail. It's worth a stroll over if you find yourself in the area. 

Importantly, Wilmore Centennial Park offers greater access to green space in a part of town where that's been a need for a while now and where the need will only continue to grow as development continues. 

For folks who live nearby, Wilmore Centennial Park is a wonderful amenity. Same goes for those who are looking to explore the many things this burgeoning side of town has to offer, now including, importantly, more space for fresh air and respite. 

How to get there: 
Wilmore Centennial Park is located at 173 South Tryon St., Charlotte, NC, 28202. There's some on-street parking nearby. Better yet, it's a short stroll from the Charlotte Rail Trail and other fun South End destinations. Consider riding your bike!