Local News

Overhaul to keep Pullen Park closed until fall

Posted March 5, 2011 12:58 p.m. EST
Updated March 5, 2011 7:44 p.m. EST

— Work to renovate Pullen Park will keep visitors from enjoying the popular outdoor attraction in Raleigh for a second summer.

Pullen Park, just west of downtown, has been closed since December 2009 for a $6 million overhaul.

Ashlei Folsom, of Cary, had hoped to show off the Raleigh landmark to her two sons Saturday.

"I just didn't think it was still under construction," she said.

The park was originally scheduled to reopen early this summer, but delays have pushed backed the opening until November.

Planners with Raleigh's parks department attributed the delay to unexpected problems, such as unmapped underground utility lines, that have popped up while working on the 124-year-old park.

"It's been a little bit of mystery sometimes when you start digging in a 100-year-old park," parks planner David Shouse said.

Crews also ran across unmapped water lines and had to stop working until they could figure out what to do with them. As well, cold weather froze progress on construction that didn't start until this past November.

Shouse cautioned that this November is only a tentative opening date.

"Until we actually get all the way out of the ground and are working above ground, there is the opportunity for delays as we continue to discover things," he said.

The renovations include a new shelter for the park's historic carousel, a new train station, welcome center and restrooms and improvements to event spaces, playgrounds and picnic shelters.

New lighting will be installed so the park can be opened at night. The lake has been drained and dredged, allowing for the installation of a geothermal energy system.

The project, which was funded by a 2003 bond measure, is on budget.

The shutdown is the first lengthy closure of Pullen Park since it opened in 1887 as the first public park in North Carolina.

More than 1 million people visited the park in 2009, and 500,000 rode the carousel, miniature train and other rides. Pullen Park is the 91st most visited park in the United States, according to the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence.

Folsom said she thinks the Pullen Park renovation will be worth the wait.

"I think it'll be great, and we'll use it for years," she said.