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Go Ask Mom

Triangle carousels: Chavis has carousel, few visitors

Posted June 10, 2010

The empty can of malt liquor that rattled over to greet my daughter and I as we stepped out of our car at Chavis Park over Memorial Day weekend was emblematic of the problems faced by this park near downtown Raleigh.

With no more than three cars in the parking lot on a holiday weekend, there was plenty of space for the can to roll. And there are some other more systemic problems there that city officials agree needs to be addressed. (We also saw a man walk through the park with a bottle of malt liquor, overflowing garbage cans and shards of broken beer bottles).

Signs at Pullen Park, which is closed for a major overhaul until late summer 2011, point parkgoers to Chavis because of its carousel. Unfortunately not enough people are making the three mile trek down Western and Martin Luther King boulevards to get there. Triangle carousels: Chavis has carousel, few visitors Triangle carousels: Chavis has carousel, few visitors

Chavis has had a few big weekends since it's been the only carousel in town, drawing 100 to 150 people, Richard Costello with the city parks department tells me. That still pales in comparison to a big weekend at Pullen where a couple of thousand might ride the carousel.

It's too bad. With an outdoor pool and sprayground; a large though aging playground; a track and community center; and the city's other carousel, there's plenty to recommend at Chavis. It's just that so few people know about it or are willing to go there.

"I think probably one of the biggest challenges is that a lot of people are not even aware of the opportunity there and if more people were aware of the opportunities, the proximity of downtown, it's a nice neighborhood pool to go cool off," senior park planner David Shouse said. "If there were more legitimate users there. That's more legitimate users to be more eyes in the park and perhaps make people that detract from the experience, have them feeling a little less apt to be in the park and do what they're doing."

Shouse also pointed out that the problems at Chavis extend to other parks as well where unauthorized sports leagues, for instance, might gather to play and leave plenty of evidence behind.

"We don't know all the time what's going on," he said.

In the next fiscal year, the city has plans to take a look at Chavis to see how they can get more people to take advantage of all that it has to offer. A major project, slated to start next year, also will move the Chavis carousel to a more visible spot off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a move that many in the neighborhood oppose because of the historic nature of the park. The park opened in 1937 and is named for John Chavis, a Revolutionary War soldier, teacher and minister who established an integrated school for children in Raleigh. The historic Allan Herschell Carousel has been at the park since its opening, but dates to 1923 or earlier.

But some say the time is now to boost Chavis' visibility especially with Pullen closed.

"This is a golden opportunity to showcase it," said James West, who represents the area on City Council.

"When you go to Pullen, you expect certain things," he said. "I think Chavis, the history, the environment itself, it's a low-wealth area. That means you have to police it and monitor it."

West said he planned to talk to city officials about the park.

"What bothers me is the possible atmosphere," he said. "If you don't have the environment, the people are not going to come."

Southeast Raleigh community activist Octavia Rainey said the city needs to figure out now how to increase the number of parkgoers. She thinks perhaps a regular series of jazz or gospel concerts or events for kids might bring more people there.

"We need to do more specialized events at Chavis and put a marketing strategy behind them," she said. "Just like we do for the downtown amphitheater, just like we do for Raleigh Wide Open, just like we would for the Race for the Cure. With Pullen being closed, this is the opportunity for Chavis now."

Chavis Community Park is located at 505 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Raleigh. The carousel is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $1. Children 13 months and under are free with a paying adult.

With Pullen closed, Go Ask Mom will feature the carousels of the Triangle for the next three weeks. Check back here next Friday for the next installment.


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  • Mugu Jun 17, 2010

    Too many single mothers living in those projects letting their fatherless children run rampant and break into cars. I would rather drink my malt liquor in the comfort of my own home.

  • Lickad Jun 14, 2010

    Chavis is in the worst part of the city next to a housing project, I would rather not go there and risk my life.

  • LuvLivingInCary Jun 13, 2010

    why should i want to leave my nice safe suburban life in brier creek and go risk things on martin luther king drive.

  • shall6 Jun 13, 2010

    Thanks for your comments bmg379 and kimmcn. I'll add too that the neighborhood around the park has seen some pretty major redevelopment over the last decade. Here's a link to the 2004 story when the plans were announced:


  • kimmcn Jun 12, 2010

    Meant to say 10 years old...

  • kimmcn Jun 12, 2010

    That is a terrible story that bmg379 posted, however it was 19 years old.

  • bmg379 Jun 11, 2010 here is a local news ,local girl found murdered in what park???

  • bmg379 Jun 11, 2010

  • bmg379 Jun 11, 2010

    I would not go to chavis heights park for the same reason I would not use the jogging trails off raleigh blvd.Did you read the article about the white preacher who movend into se raleigh and wife who was walking the baby in se raleigh and the cops stopped her and told her she was in a bad area. Hello,put the carousel somewhere where it will be used and appreciated and not slept in

  • shall6 Jun 11, 2010

    Thanks oyid for your comment. I figured I'd let readers be the judge for themselves on safety and security and describe my experience seeing the trash, broken glass, man walking through park with malt liquor bottle. I didn't check with police on incident reports at the park. And I agree with you on traffic. Like Octavia said ... something needs to happen to get more people to that park.