Mecklenburg County’s Freedom Park is one of the best-known regional parks. Its 101-acres includes walking trails, playgrounds, athletic fields, shelters and a seven-acre lake. Visitors walk, jog or bike on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which meanders along the boundaries of Freedom Park.
To say the least, the park gets a lot of use throughout the year. Although Freedom Park has had small updates over the years, like the addition of the NFL Play60 KidZone and the new playground on the East Boulevard side, it was time for a more comprehensive facelift.
Mike Campbell is the Central Park regional manager and Freedom Park falls under his jurisdiction. He has been managing Freedom Park since 2011. He explained that with approximately 1.8 million dollars in bond money from 2008, Freedom Park is the recipient of an improved band shell, two new restroom buildings (one building is still under construction), four rebuilt shelters and one renovated shelter. In addition, a deferred maintenance budget paid to build six brand-new tennis courts and paint the ever-popular Gainesville Midland train near the east side entrance.
The shelters were designed based on feedback from public input sessions conducted before the project started. The shelters were built with steel beams for the frame, wood beams for the ceiling and a stone façade around the pillars for aesthetics. “They will be here a long time. It is a tremendous upgrade from what it was,” said Campbell.
Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation partnered with Trees Charlotte to create an Honorary Garden in the space where the concession stand was located. The concession stand was torn down because it was no longer being used on a regular basis. Dave Cable, director of philanthropy and special projects at Trees Charlotte, said that the Honorary Garden at Freedom Park is meant to be a contemplative space. The purpose is to highlight the supportive community of donors who have made Trees Charlotte possible. Cable said, “It is designed to celebrate the iconic urban force in Charlotte.”
Freedom Park’s history goes back to just after World War II, when the Charlotte Lion’s Club raised funds to buy the land that is now the current park. They turned around and deeded it to the city in 1949. “The Lion’s Club did this to honor the veterans who served in World War II,” said Campbell. Over the years, annual events like Freedom Summer Series and Festival in the Park in September make it a destination spot for individuals, families, groups and friends.
Hannah Forbes was born in Charlotte, and she grew up playing at Freedom Park. Now 30, she remembers how she climbed on the train as a little girl. As a parent, she spends time here with her daughter, Emery. She said, “Freedom Park is truly a Charlotte staple for me. There’s a comfort here. I also love the water, walking around the lake and there are different areas to go. Even though it is a big park, you feel sort of intimate whether you are here at the playground or walking around the lake. There are a lot of different options to go.”
Forbes noticed the updates happening throughout the park. She said, “I like how it has been slow and subtle. That’s the way it feels for me. Every time I come, there has been something new that I notice.”
Interested in trying out one of the new or renovated shelters for your next get together, family reunion, or picnic? Registration for shelters is through e-parks 2.0, or by calling Freedom Park at 980-314-1002. Freedom Park is located just outside of uptown and Myers Park, at 1900 East Boulevard.