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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Community Spotlight - Mecklenburg County Park and Rec, “The natural place to be”

Mar 31, 2009 09:02PM
By Lisa Moore

While the city is the engine of our intellectual lives, the constant overload of stimuli can consume much of the mind’s processing power. The beauty and solitude of nature, which is very beneficial for the brain, can provide a mental break from the urban roil.

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department offers many nearby natural settings and activities for restoration and rejuvenation. Whether you want a horseback ride, a kayak lesson or a scenic campsite, it’s all at your fingertips.

Numerous facilities and programs offer sports, fitness, enjoyment of nature and many fun and educational things to do. County citizens are fortunate to have more than 200 facilities of all descriptions: parks, recreation centers, playgrounds, greenways, picnic shelters, fitness centers, golf courses, swimming pools, disc golf courses, a campground, two skate parks, a BMX bike track, an indoor water park, a stadium, plus hundreds of ball fields, tennis and volleyball and basketball courts. Nature Preserves

Mecklenburg County Park and Rec maintains more than 6,600 acres of nature preserves and three nature centers. “Many people who grow up and live in cities don't get out much in nature anymore,” says Michael Cozza, Public Information Specialist. “Our nature preserves give them the chance to hike in the woods, bask in the sun in a meadow, marvel at the beauty of a mature forest, thrill at the site of a great blue heron, wild deer or maybe even a fox.”

Nature preserves provide habitat for both common and rare plants and animals and sites for educational activities and the observation of wildlife and natural communities. “They offer peace and quiet and are also great places to learn about ecology and how to help preserve the environment,” states Cozza. Greenway Trails

The Mecklenburg County greenway system is quickly becoming one of the finest in the country. Greenways are vegetated natural buffers that improve water quality, reduce the impacts of flooding, and provide wildlife habitat. Greenway trails provide recreation, transportation, fitness and economic benefits for all to enjoy. There are 33 miles of developed and 147 miles of undeveloped greenways in the county. Dog Parks

The county also offers five free dog parks where canine owners and non-owners can delight in the entertaining and interesting interaction of dogs at play. Our furry friends benefit from nature as much as we do and highly socialized and exercised animals are healthier and happier. Community Gardens

Want to have a garden but don’t have the space or proper sunlight? Get your garden gloves and shovels ready and get outdoors to enjoy the harvest. Plant your flowers and vegetables at one of seven local community garden spots. Rent your own garden space and enjoy living greener and eating healthier.

“We hope more people will take advantage of our facilities and programs. In a flagging economy, we provide recreation that is nearby and free or inexpensive,” says Cozza. “We want people to consider us when they think about what to do in their leisure time. We like to say we're ‘the natural place to be.’”

Learn about the opportunities for fun and fitness for your family. Explore the many ways you can recreate all year at

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