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Park Review: Chapel Hill's Community Center Park

Community Center Park might not be Chapel Hill's biggest park. But it's probably its most popular.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
Community Center Park might not be Chapel Hill's biggest park. But it's probably its most popular.

The large playground was filled with kids and parents on a Friday morning when I was there last month. The structures sit on a rubber surface, the first for Chapel Hill when it was poured about two decades ago, assistant park director Bill Webster tells me. And a good portion of the playground is shaded, particularly the play area for younger children.

While the play structures feature primarily traditional equipment - swings, slides, monkey bars and lots of opportunities for climbing - the park as a whole offers plenty of diversions that make it worth the trip.

Here's what else I like:

Two trails run through the park. The 1.5-miles Battle Branch Trail is a natural surface trail that will take you to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. The 1.5-mile Bolin Creek Trail also runs through the park and is paved, which is especially nice if you're pushing a stroller. You'll find some pieces of public art along this trail right near the playground, including a bench formed from two hands that is dedicated to a Chapel Hill community activist.
The Gene Strowd Community Rose Garden. The garden sits right next to the playground and is a nice respite from all the active play the kids are getting. You'll find more than 350 roses bushes of 130 different varieties. Plus, how cute is a photo of a toddler smelling roses? Lots of photo opportunities here.

The hill and concrete climbing wall next to the playground. When I was a kid, there was a small hill near where I lived. And I spent hours there rolling down it, running down it, throwing my dolls down it. So I love the small hill that sits next to the playground here. At the bottom of it, next to the playground, is an unusual wall. The white, knobby concrete wall is actually a work of art. It was built to replace an aging retaining wall and finished last year. It's cool to look at. And playing on it is encouraged.

The community center, which was recently renovated. Inside the center, you'll find an indoor pool and what probably is the very first municipal climbing wall in the country. The old-school, plywood structure was built by volunteers, opened about 23 years ago and is packed when it's open. Check the website for details on the climbing wall including hours and fees. Participants must be at least 6 for open climb.

There also are a variety of programs at the community center for all ages, including open play in the gym for young children in the mornings, sports leagues and programs for teens and tweens. The center also offers Friday Fun Nights for kids with disabilities once a month. Participants can play games, shoot baskets, climb the climbing wall or swim. The next Friday Fun Night is 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5. Non-disabled siblings and friends are welcome. Minors and others who need focused supervision should bring an adult with them.

There's a big drawback here: The parking. When I was there on a Friday morning, I had to park along the drive that takes you into the park. Webster says there isn't enough parking, especially on the weekends. And there might not be any fix for that.

"There's not enough property," he tells me.

But that's apparently not keeping people away.

Community Center Park is at 120 South Estes Dr. in Chapel Hill. Check the video for a closer look of the playground.

And see other park and playground reviews by clicking here.




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