Getting to Know The Outer Banks: Smaller Parks

parks on the Outer BanksOne of the problems that arises in writing about the Outer Banks is that there is so much to see and do, picking and choosing what’s best can become difficult. Almost impossible it seems at times. That is certainly the case when it comes to deciding how to describe the smaller parks that are part of the towns or county systems. There are so many of them, fulfilling a number of different functions and all of them are very well maintained. The problem is that writing about all of them runs the risk of becoming an endless list that can seem daunting and could easily become confusing.

Instead, we’re offering an Outer Banks Blue list of some of our favorite parks. This is by no means complete. On this list we’re not including skateparks or dog parks, as an example. Nonetheless, we think this is a good starting point.

Sandy Run – Kitty Hawk

Located on the Woods Road, Sandy Run Park is a gem of a little park that is perfect for the whole family. The park is set in the midst of a pond, with a wooden boardwalk and easy hiking trail surrounding the main impoundment. The boardwalk has an observation tower that is worth climbing

As soon as it gets warm enough—and that could be a good sunny day in January—the yellow slider turtles come out by the dozens and maybe hundreds, sunning themselves on the many logs that seem to fill the water. It is a guaranteed kid pleaser.

Toward late spring, summer and autumn, there are usually nesting osprey on the south end of the park. Fall and winter, migratory waterfowl are often in the waters.

In addition to simply walking around the park, there are other activities. The park is a catch and release sight for fishing and the fishing is pretty good. There are also two kayak or canoe put in sites.

Take a camera. The park is a photographers dream, filled with color and activity.

Nags Head Town Park

Tucked away from the main streets and road of the Outer Bank, the Nags Head Town Park is off the beaten track but worth the effort to find—not that it will take much effort. Turn at the light at the Ace Hardware—Barnes Street—and go tot the end of the road. Barnes will turn into Health Center Drive where the park is located.

This is a park that seems to have something for everyone. There is a large covered picnic pavilion with grills making it perfect for a family gathering, and a small playground with an extensive open field ideal for pick up games of frisbee, touch football, soccer…whatever the favorite sport may be.

There is are a number of easily hiked trails in the park. One of them, the Nags Head Town Trail connects with Nags Head Woods.

Dowdy Park – Nags Head

Occupying what was once Dowdy Amusement Park in Nags Head, Dowdy Park is the newest addition to the Outer Banks park collection and the town really seemed to get this one right.

Located at the intersection of the Bypass (US 158) and East Bonnett Street, its location next to Nags Head Elementary School seems fitting.

The playground is wonderfully designed with jungle gyms, swings and a roller slide that’s a lot like a sliding board only with rollers. There is also a soft material hill that kids can climb. The designers even included swings for children who are confined to a wheelchair so that they too can feel the childhood joy of a swing.

The middle of the park is a large open field with plenty of room to run around and play sports. Not quite as large as the open field at Nags Head Town Park, but big.

Something not seen in the past on the Outer Banks parks—there are tables with a checker or chess board embedded in them. Picnic tables and grills, as well as a fitness trail that wraps around the open field are part of the park.

On the east end there is a stage and the town has used it from time to time for performances.

Playground Parks

David Paul Pruitt Park – Kitty Hawk

Located just past the Dominion Power offices on the Woods Road, the Paul Pruitt Park is a small park that younger children especially love. The ground is mulched to keep it soft, the playground rides are designed with toddlers and younger children in mind. Not quite as busy as some of the other playgrounds, it creates a nice atmosphere for parent and child.

Hayman Street Park – Kill Devil Hills

For anyone wondering where the locals take there kids, this is it. Located in the heart of Kill Devil Hills, Hayman Park is located on Hayman Street—of course. The road, though makes a big circle around the common area, forming large open space for the park.

Swing sets, jungle gyms and a slide with multiple shoots are part of the attraction, as well as an open field where kids can run, picnic tables and live oak trees with low branches that children invariably climb.

Rec Park – Kill Devil Hills

A county facility that is home to youth soccer, football, baseball, softball and basketball, Rec Park in addition has a marvelous little playground that includes the standard equipment as well as spring balanced rocking horses that children seem to gravitate to. The park has what may be the largest covered picnic pavilion in Dare County.

Whalebone Park – Nags Head

Across the street from Jennette’s Pier, at the back of the parking lot, Whalebone Park is easy to overlook. It does have a vey nice collection of nautically themed swings, slides and climbing areas. There is not quite as much shade at the park as other parks, although there is a small covered picnic area. Nags Head labels it as a “Need a break from the beach?” park. They’re probably right.

Dowdy Park, Coming Soon!

Do you remember Dowdy’s Amusement Park? I do, and what a great place it was for all, young and old. Those rides, the arcade games, plus the popcorn and cotton candy. I can still see it now. Ah yes, those were the days when we enjoyed just being out with the family and looking at the roller coaster even if you did not ride. It was a sad day when it closed, back in the early 2000’s, after being a fond part of Nags Head for so many years.

Not long ago it was announced that Dowdy’s Park would be returning to Nags Head, not as the old amusement park we remember, but as a beautiful park to be enjoyed by all ages even without the rides! The Town of Nags Head purchased the land several years ago with the intent of making it a park to be enjoyed by residents of Nags Head and everyone else who passes by the old site on the corner of Bonnett Street and Croatan Highway. To continue to carry the name of the original owner it will be called “Dowdy Park”.

New Dowdy ParkA committee worked long and hard with residents of all ages, including children, to come up with the best design that would give everyone an opportunity to enjoy the new park. At this time the plan includes an informal trail park with play equipment, a multi-use playing field and turf area, restrooms, an event plaza, pavilion, boccie/lawn sports and a multi-use court. Keeping an eye on environmental concerns there will be a wetland garden, small dunes with vegetation plus a separate garden. There are also proposed benches, tables and chairs and fitness stations.

Funding is always the question that comes with financing such an undertaking. Currently the Town is hopeful of receiving a grant from NC Parks and Rec Fund. In addition the Outer Banks Tourism Board has been a tremendous help in the miles of sidewalks built throughout the Town and other amenities. Nags Head will be applying again for their assistance. Let’s hope they are successful!

It’s location alone should draw from the neighborhoods nearby plus those biking the wonderful sidewalks along the area. Our summer visitors will see the activity as they drive by another great addition to all the amenities in Nags Head. Way to go those of you in charge!