Lately, I’ve had a gift for divining cool, off-the-radar municipal parks. First, there was the new White Deer Park in Garner (off the radar, perhaps, only because it only opened in November). A week later I rediscovered Cedarock Park in Alamance County. This past Saturday: Main Street Park in Rolesville.
The latter was perhaps the most surprising find. Marcy and I had set out to take in spring at the Franklin County Nature Preserve south of Louisburg. Along about Rolesville we detoured to Fantasy Lake, to see what was up at the scuba diving center of the Triangle. (People were diving — in 47-degree water, albeit with 30- to 40-foot visibility.) On the way back into town, we saw some Adirondack chairs outside a furniture store, stopped, and two hours later emerged with a new coffee table and dining room table. (Don’t ask.)
By now, the sun was thinking about calling it a day; We needed a smaller diversion than Allen de Hart’s lush nature preserve. On the drive into town we noticed a small park off US 401. A quick walk, we thought, maybe check out the playground. We didn’t expect Main Street Park’s small street-front presence to yield a 35.9-acre nature preserve with a mile and a half of paved trail.
“The park opened in two phases,” Rolesville P&R Director William Leonard told me later. The front part — the gazebo, the playground, the picnic area and a quarter mile of trail — opened in Spring 2005. The “back section” — with a mile and a quarter of paved walking trail meandering through the woods — opened recently.
What makes Main Street Park unique is the mile and a half of paved, 8- to 10-foot-wide greenway that winds through the woods. The “back” trail passes exposed rock face and under a maturing canopy of hardwoods and pine. There’s a funky pond (and funkier critters nearby), picnic rocks, a large picnic shelter (that could double as a rollerskating rink and, if you’re hankerin’ for a full-body workout, a retro par course. At times we had no idea where we were, then realized it didn’t matter since we couldn’t be more than a holler from civilization. I kinda like being lost when I know it’s not permanent.
Main Street Park excels for two user groups. It’s one of the best handicap-accessible trails around in terms of getting into the woods and not just close to them. And it’s perfect for little ones on trikes and small bikes: They get a sense of exploration and discovery on a smooth, tot-friendly surface.
The best thing about Main Street Park is that it’s part of little Rolesville’s (population 2,844 as of 2008) big Open Space and Greenways Master Plan. In a nutshell: parks director Leonard says the Main Street Greenway will link with a mile or so of existing greenway at a nearby park on Rogers Road and the new Heritage High School on Forestville Road. That, he says, will be as much as 5 miles of greenway, greenway that will connect with emerging greenway in nearby Wake Forest. Much of the Rolesville greenway is being funded by housing developments going up in the area. (The downside: with the recent economic slump and resulting housing slump, it’s hard to say when this greenway will be completed.)
Eventually, Leonard says the plan is for the Rolesville greenway to connect with Raleigh’s greenway system somewhere along the Neuse River corridor. Raleigh recently began construction on that 28-mile trail, which the city plans to have done by 2014.
But there’s no need to wait until Rolesville hooks into Wake Forest, Raleigh and the Triangle at large. Main Street Park offers plenty of escape now.