TheCity of Greenville, North Carolina, will celebrate the addition of Wildwood Adventure Park for its community with a grand opening event on Oct. 16, featuring food trucks, inflatables and recreational activities.
The grand opening will be held at Wildwood Park, located at 3450 Blue Heron Drive, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. with festivities including a beer garden sponsored by the Young Professionals of Pitt County.
Wildwood Park will offer outdoor recreational activities which include hiking trails, camping sites and water sports. Recreation and Parks Director Don Octigan said the grand opening will introduce the park to the Greenville community, providing an opportunity to showcase what is to come and what the park has to offer.
“It’s a park like no other we have currently,” Octigan said. “This park is going to be able to provide us access to the (Tar) river from the existing pond so it creates an exciting time for us so we can build and really try to activate the Tar River more than it is now.”
Octigan said Wildwood Park is the city’s newest addition to the park system north of the Tar River. He said the objective for the park development plan is to create in-house activities and experiences that are unique to the community of Greenville, NC.
The initial goal of the whole project was to decide what the City of Greenville needed and what would benefit its community, Octigan said. He said the park development plan has been a six month process and community engagement was crucial for the effectiveness of the park.
“Wildwood park is a lot of work on our staff and it’s a lot of work for the city, but it is going to be well worth all the effort,” Octigan said.
The previous Recreation and Parks Director, Gary Fenton, had the vision about eight years ago to create a park that was unique to the park system in Greenville, Octigan said. He said constructing a park to this magnitude takes time, therefore the park will be conducted in three phases.
The park development plan that was developed in March of 2021 was presented to the Greenville City Council on Oct. 11. Octigan said the department looks forward to the council reviewing that plan and being able to start working on the other phases of the project.
“The park is geared toward creating an environment where citizens can be active and increase their wellness with healthy activities and enjoy the environment,” Octigan said.
Due to the close proximity, Octigan said East Carolina University and the recreation and parks department have discussed possible partnerships and opportunities for students that will benefit them from a wellness and educational standpoint. He said a partnership with student organizations and clubs to host activities at the park will be the key to introducing the park to students.
Octigan, who graduated from ECU in 2005, said since he started working full time for the City of Greenville, Recreation and Parks has worked closely with ECU students. Recreation and Parks has spoken at ECU classes and has internship opportunities to help prepare future professionals in the field of recreation sciences.
“East Carolina (University) is a huge and important component of this community and I think working with ECU on many levels, which we do currently, is a great thing for the city and you’re getting the students involved,” said Octigan.
Recreation and Parks Planner Mark Nottingham said many of the amenities the park offers will be catered toward younger, active citizens, but will also offer entertainment for everyone. He said the design plan for Wildwood Park included construction of parking lots, canoe and kayak launch, a sandy beach area and various trails.
The original design plan for phase one included about 70 parking spaces, Nottingham said. In order to increase community engagement, he said the department realized they needed to accommodate a much larger crowd and pulled the trigger on constructing additional parking.
“This is just the first phase of the park and other phase improvements are being designed right now and are funded so stay tuned for more exciting developments at the park,” Nottingham said.
Wildwood Park is just one of many endeavors the department has planned for Greenville. Nottingham said a new community pool is currently being constructed. He said the existing community pool is around 50 years old and was due for an upgrade.
The new pool will include six-lap lanes, zero-depth entry and a 16-foot high water slide, Nottingham said. He said the pool is expected to open in the summer of 2022.
Superintendent of Greenville Recreation and Parks Heather White said the opening day event will be free to the public and showcase the natural beauty of the park. The public is encouraged to bring stadium-type chairs to sit along the sandy beach and bathing suits to swim in the pond, White said.
“Not only will the park be something for people to go at their own leisure and enjoy the park by roaming the trails, renting the camping platform for a weekend, taking part in water sports, but also rental spaces,” White said.
White led the effort to organize the Wildwood Park grand opening and said there were no challenges seeing as her staff worked diligently on planning the event. She said the nature-based park will offer various recreational and water sport activities to a diverse age group.
“Saturday (Oct. 16) after the opening day event the park is officially open to the public to go and enjoy and engage in whatever they see fit out there,” she said.
An invite-only ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on Oct. 15 at 4:30 p.m. to honor the hard work the city has put into the development of the park and celebrate the official opening of Wildwood Park, according to White.
White said the ribbon cutting ceremony will have speakers that include upper city management, director of recreation and parks and the city manager P.J. Connelly, Mayor of Greenville, will also be one of the guests in attendance alongside donor Grady-White Boats who heavily funded the project, White said.
“I just want to shout out Eddie Smith and all of his staff at Grady-White Boats for support of this park space and the funding that has gone into being able to get the park off the ground,” White said.