Alamance Parks hosted the grand opening of Island Park on Saturday, April 14.
Just below the Buddy Collins Bridges in the heart of Saxapahaw, the park spans 30 acres.
“This park is a great example of the Haw River Trail initiative of conservation through recreation,” said Guil Johnson, the county’s Haw River Trail Coordinator. “This park will be a place where families can get back to enjoying nature along the county’s best natural resource — the Haw River. I am so proud of the Saxapahaw community and our Alamance Parks’ staff for making this idea a reality.”
He said he hopes that other communities along the Haw River will look at the park as a model for their own river banks.
“Saxapahaw has done a great job leading the way in taking something that was old and turning it into a place that people want to go and spend their time,” Johnson said.
Plans for the park began seven years ago. The island was once a thriving gathering place with a baseball field, where millworkers and their families would spend their down time.
Over the years, though, it became deserted, save for the rowdies who liked to rev their four-wheelers.
Now, the island is replete with walking trails, a playground and a meadow.
On Saturday, people walked its trails and fished on its banks, while children slid on its fish slide and swung on the park’s swings.
John Guss, Alamance Parks’ park superintendent, said he was glad that the island is now back to life, while Brian Baker, director of Alamance Parks, expects that “pretty soon, there will be blankets, picnics and dogs out there” in the meadow.
Waste Industries and the Clore family donated the island to the county. Impact Alamance pitched in $100,000 for the park’s playground. It features a huge wooden fish slide built by Jerry Hajek and his wife Evelyn Anderson of Asheville Playgrounds.
From head to fin, it is 45 feet long. It stands 10 feet tall and is 8 feet wide. It weighs six tons.
A flatbed truck hauled it from Asheville to Saxapahaw in four hours, Hajek said.
Wes Joyce walked the trails Saturday with his daughter, Melody, his son, Keaton, and his wife, Ashley.
Melody said that she appreciated that there is something for everyone at the park.
“Everything fits together really nice,” she said.
And the fish slide particularly impressed her little brother, 4-year-old Keaton.
“I love the fish!” he said. “That’s a really big slide!”
Reporter Bill Cresenzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-506-3041. Follow him on Twitter at @BillCresenzoTN