Raleigh Outside

In Feature Stories, May 2016 by Alexandra Drosu1 Comment

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When it comes to the outdoors we are fortunate in Raleigh. We have miles of lush greenways, an abundance of lakes, outdoor amphitheaters, art walks and patios where you can enjoy good weather over a pint. The one thing that’s missing? A city park. And, now, we’re getting that too!

Dorthea Dix skyline view  A Park of Our Own

by Mandy Howard

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Millennium Park in Chicago, Central Park in New York City. The centerpiece of any great city is a great park. It’s Raleigh’s turn.

Raleigh is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live, our population is exploding and there is construction taking place in nearly every pocket of our great city. When can we expect our crown jewel, our great park to be ready?

On July 24th, 2015, after years of negotiations, hiccups and setbacks, Raleigh bought the 308-acre Dorothea Dix property, the former mental institution that closed in 2012, from the state of North Carolina for $52 million.

With the ink still relatively fresh, the questions begin. What can we expect? What will it look like? How will it compete with the great public parks around the nation?

In Mayor Nancy McFarlane’s State of the City address in March, she announced officially, to thunderous applause, “We’re starting the planning process on Dorothea Dix Park.”

Despite the excitement, Raleigh is working to ensure things are done right the first time. With that in mind, city council has estimated two years for the planning process and an additional 20 to 60 years for the complete transformation with portions being opened and debuted along the way.

Every Wednesday starting May 4th the city is inviting the public to take a free 90-minute walking tour of Dorothea Dix with Senior Planner Kate Pearce. The tour will cover the history of the land and legacy of Dorothea Dix, and the steps the city will take in planning the new park but you must register to participate. 

For a list of dates and to register, visit eventbrite.com/e/hometown-tourist-a-walking-tour-of-dorothea-dix-park-tickets.


Art the City

Historically, Raleigh has lingered behind other cities when it comes to public art installations. But that’s about to change. Efforts by local businesses and individuals, city associations and the North Carolina Museum of Art aim to change the local landscape.

What’s Going On at the NCMA?

“A Big Project!” jokes Dan Gottlieb, North Carolina Museum of Art Director of Planning and Design.

Over the next few months, the mounds of earth and backhoes that have invaded the NCMA along Blue Ridge Road will transform it into one of the most ambitious, integrated and inviting cultural spaces in the country. So much so, the New York Times ran an article highlighting the project in their March 17th museums section.

Gottlieb describes the expansion as a series of community lawns and gathering spaces that will serve as an extension of the museum and a front porch to the emerging Blue Ridge corridor. Gardens and beautiful walkways will seamlessly connect the existing museum with the new park-like area that will also include rotating sculpture exhibits.

The Art Walk and miles of greenway will remain and lengthen creating a compelling place where residents will want to bring their visiting family and friends.

“It is for everyone because it will have such variety. You can go for a run, a bike ride, have a picnic, see traditional gallery art, see sculpture in a park setting, and enjoy performance art,” Gottlieb explains.

The project is slated to complete mid-summer with a series of events highlighting the new space in the fall.


Steel Dreams

Raleigh Native Joel Haas Brings Metal To Life

By Mandy Howard

It’s not difficult to identify which home belongs to Raleigh sculptor Joel Haas. There is something subtly alive about the facade and yard that is hard to define until you take a few steps toward the door. Everything, from the “Blame Dial” sundial to the dragon mailbox, is a handmade sculpture crafted from repurposed steel.

Haas started his work 35 years ago and he recalls the moment vividly: “Reagen was shot, I turned 30 and I decided I wanted to be a sculptor.”

Since this decision, made before he had any classes, tools or knowledge of the trade, Haas has become a Raleigh art figure. His sculptures can be found in yards throughout the city, local parks, churches and the Rex Cancer Center. Haas has become known especially for his ability to repurpose discarded steel scraps.

Pollock Place Playground, across the street from the artist’s home, features three benches sculpted by Haas. His neighbors’ yards are home to some of his favorite pieces including Punk Momma Stegosaurus, a pink¬ haired dinosaur sure to bring out the kid in anyone that sees it.

“Without art, we are just monkeys with car keys,” he says. “It is also important for kids to be able to see it, and realize that they can pursue something artistic for a profession.”

As Raleigh continues to grow and we begin to fund future public art, Haas gives a plea for people to remember the importance of abstract art.

“I always ask my clients,” he says. “What do you want this to say about you or what do you want it to do? As in, what kind of emotion or reaction do you want it to produce?”

For more information on Joel Haas and where you can see his sculpture throughout Raleigh, visit www.joelhaasstudio.com


Autumn Cobeland: Supporting the greenway through art

Bringing her love of the outdoors to canvas, local painter Autumn Cobeland has captured the beauty of Raleigh’s greenway system in a series of prints. Her Greenway Series, a watercolor and gouache medium of art on paperboard, began in 2011 as a celebration of the outdoors and accessible art for the public.

“Through a workshop at Visual Art Exchange the idea all came together,” says Cobeland, who is influenced by vintage national parks and travel posters. “I wanted somebody who is happy when they are out on the greenways to be able to have a print to remind them.”

For Cobeland, the effort was more than about painting a pretty picture. She is passionate about the outdoors, about reflecting this passion in her work, and also finding a way to give back to the community. Cobeland contributes 20 percent of her print sales back to the greenways, splitting donations between the City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department and the Triangle Greenways Council. 

Autumn Cobeland’s studio is located at Studio 217 in Artspace, 201 East Davie St., Raleigh.

— Tracy Jones


Take a Walk on the Green Side

Raleigh’s greenways showcase city life outside

By Tracy Jones

Throughout Raleigh paved trails wind through canopied forests, around glistening lakes, past playgrounds and neighborhoods, and intersect to form a network of greenways for residents to enjoy.

Beginning with a greenway proposal in 1969 and taking shape in the early 1970s, Raleigh’s greenway system has grown to encompass 117 miles of trails, with over 100 additional miles proposed in the recently adopted Capital Area Greenway Planning and Design Guide. Although added mileage will take many years to complete, it is proof of the support greenways have in the community, both from residents and elected officials.

The benefit of such a web of connectivity is that whether you are out for a short stroll or a 20-mile bike ride, you have the ability of venturing through different parts of the city, exploring suspension bridges, outside artwork, or just nature itself, regardless of the fact that you are still smack dab in the center of North Carolina’s capital.

“The impact of this connectivity is reflected in the sheer number of users and events we see on the trails,” said Greenway Planner Todd Milam of the Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department.  “Additionally, as the number of people on the trails have increased, so too have the number of ways in which people are using the trails. While the recreation aspect of the trails has always been the foundation of the city’s trail planning efforts, there is now a significant transportation component to consider as well.  We are in constant partnership and collaboration with the other city departments to strengthen and prioritize connections to transit, to streets, and sidewalks by closing gaps and making connections to the greenway network.”

1. Lake Johnson (East or West Loop) 2.8 or 2.1 miles

Located on either side of Avent Ferry Road, Lake Johnson provides visitors with two options. They can either enjoy the paved 2.8 mile East Loop (3.5 miles if you venture off the main loop) that also comes with the amenities of a water fountain, bathroom, and boat house, or go off-road on the 2.1 mile West Loop. The West Loop can be found by crossing Avent Ferry at the marked signs. While it is a dirt trail, it is well kept and can easily be combined with the East Loop for a more robust 4.9-mile hike.

2. Shelley Lake Loop 2.1 miles

For a casual and stress-free walk (or jog), explore the 2.1 mile trail in Shelley Lake Sertoma Park. Bring your kids, your dog, or just yourself. Shaded portions give you a break from the sun and benches offer spots to rest if needed. Amenities include a restroom, basketball courts, and playgrounds. Also check out the Sertoma Arts Center for classes on painting, drawing, photography, and more.

3. House Creek Trail 3 miles

Running parallel to the Beltline from Meredith College to the Crabtree Valley Mall, this trail at approximately 3 miles long has numerous connections and destinations along the way. “You can immerse yourself in nature for a short period, but quickly be at the Art Museum or shopping at the mall just minutes from the quiet, natural setting of House Creek,” said Milam.

4. Neuse River Trail 27.5 miles

Extremely popular, this 27.5-mile bike trail connects to Wake Forest, Falls Lake, Knightdale, into Johnston County into Clayton, and also to the Walnut Creek and Crabtree Creek trails. “It’s a trail that winds through all of Raleigh and Wake Counties landscapes, through extensive wetlands, rolling river settings, the sounds of rapids over historic dams and geologic formations, expansive agricultural areas with fields of sunflowers, historic and cultural sites, residential neighborhoods, and numerous parks are connected to this trail,” said Milam.

5. Crabtree Creek Trail 14.6 miles

Begin at Anderson Point Park and head northwest toward Lindsey Drive to bike the full 14.6 miles. Take a break at one of the parks along the way, including Kiwanis Park and North Hills Park. Mine Creek Trail branches off to the north, House Creek Trail branches to the south, and the Neuse River Trail runs perpendicular at Anderson Point Park, allowing you to extend your ride, or switch it up for something different each time.


Water World

The allure of water is undeniable. The way the sun dances and sparkles across a lake, fresh and cool splashes on a hot day, or watching a pink and orange sunset mirrored on its surface. Raleigh is blessed with more than it’s fair share of lakes and water sports, so this summer dive in and visit as many as you can.

Jordan Lake

One of the few lakes where you can swim, Jordan Lake offers visitors an array of activities from fishing to sailing to windsurfing. The area also boasts the largest concentration of bald eagles in the eastern United States. May and June are generally the best time of year to observe the eagles, and Vista Point and Seaforth recreation areas offer scenic vistas where you can spot the majestic bird.

The Crosswinds Boating Center, a privately managed boat rental facility, loans out fishing boats, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. For larger groups, pontoon boats can be hired (minimum two hours) and can carry up to 12 people on board.

Don’t miss: Skywatching, May 14,
9 p.m. -10 p.m.

The Morehead Planetarium hosts an evening under the stars at Ebenezer Beach, where educators will guide you on an informal tour of the constellations.

Umstead Park

The park features three man-made lakes, all accessible for fishing. However, Big Lake also offers canoe and rowboat rentals ($5/first hour, $3/each additional hour). Off the lake, visitors can bike, hike and participate in nature walks led by the park rangers while horse lovers will find plenty of trails to ride.

Don’t miss: Triangle Volksmarch 2016, June. 4, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Celebrate National Trails Day with a walking challenge for all ages; participate in citizen science experiments and lunch at the Chirba Chirba Dumpling Food Truck.

Lake Crabtree

Visitors are welcome to catch-and-release fish, sail, boat, row and paddle on the lake, and adult canoeing instruction (minimum party of four) is available. The park recently added stand-up paddleboarding to its offering of water sports. The season kicks off May 14th and prices range from $5/hour for rowboats up to $10/hour for sailboats (experienced sailors only).

Off the water, the park promotes geocaching, a type of treasure hunt where people hide small containers filled with interesting objects while others seek them out using GPS devices. You must fill out a geocache placement form to hide a container but anyone can participate.

Don’t miss: Pollinator Festival,
June 18, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The festival kicks off National Pollinator Week, an event aimed at celebrating pollinators (bees, bats, butterflies and birds) that are vital to our ecosystem, with crafts, games and activities.

Falls Lake

The 12,000-square-foot reservoir serves as both a recreation area, with an array of water activities, and wildlife habitat. Several swimming beaches, including Beaverdam, Rolling View and Sandling Beach, are open to the public, and the privately managed Rollingview Marina offers slips and mooring, kayak, paddleboard and canoe rentals.

Located on the shores of Falls Lake, Blue Jay Point features numerous lakeside hikes, recreation areas, a wildlife center and zip line and adventure course managed by Go Ape. The environmental education center offers a series of learning opportunities for all ages, including Bear Aware, a program where participants learn how to set up a campsite with black bears in mind. An abundance of activities, guided walks, and camps are also available.

Don’t miss: Falls Lake Youth Fishing Tournament and Centennial Celebration, May 21, 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Children 13 and under can learn how to fish or cast off at the 3rd annual tournament. All fishing gear and bait will be provided for free, and prizes will be awarded.

No swimming allowed!

Plenty of water activities at these scenic spots


Lake Johnson

4601 Avent Ferry Rd.

Fish from the boardwalk or a boat, free rods and reels available.

Lake Wheeler

6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.

Choose from two different piers after purchasing a daily fishing permit ($2-$4) from the park office.

Shelley Lake

1400 W. Millbrook Rd.

The boathouse offers a free tackle loaner program for those interested in giving fishing a try.

Boat Rentals

Lake Johnson

Jon boats – $4/hour, $20/day

Pedal boats – $6/half hour

Canoes/kayaks – $5/hour

Sunfish sailboats – $10/hour

Or, launch your own boat as long as it isn’t motorized.

Pullen Park

408 Ashe Avenue

Up to four people can cruise around Lake Howell in a pedal boats ($6/half hour.)

Lake Wheeler

Jon boats – $4/hour, $20/day

Rowboats – $4/hour, $20/day

Canoes – $5/hour

Kayaks – $5/hour

Pedal boats – $6/half hour

Sunfish sailboats – $10/hour

Launch your own boat, after buying a launch pass. Motorized boats are allowed, no Jet Skis.

Shelley Lake

Jon Boats – $3/hour, $15/day

Canoes – $4/hour

Pedal boats – $5/half hour,

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  1. Hey! Shelley Lake hasn’t had any boat rentals since 2008

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