Charlotte’s first public park reopens soon after a nearly $6 million makeover

Charlotte’s first public park reopens soon after a nearly $6 million makeover

A "PARK CLOSED" sign sits behind a fence to deter people from entering the western portion of Independence Park. When it reopens, you'll be able to run through the park and onto the greenway. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

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Independence Park’s $5.9 million facelift is expected to be complete in mid-March.

As you move along 7th Street or Hawthorne Lane in Elizabeth, you can see signs reading “PARK CLOSED.” But you can also see new paths, which will ultimately connect the park to Little Sugar Creek Greenway.

State of play: The park was expected to reopen in October, then December and then January, but like a lot of things these days, it’s been delayed.

What’s happening: Weather and recent rain caused the most recent delay, and scheduling of subcontractors resulted in earlier postponements, per Mecklenburg County.

Details: Renovations include a wider trail, improved playground equipment and accessibility and permanent restrooms on the west side of the park closer to American Legion Memorial Stadium, which the county completed renovations on and opened in 2021.

  • Independence Park was originally completed in 1906, making it Charlotte’s first public park, according to Bert Lynn, capital planning division director for Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation. Ease of access for people of all abilities wasn’t taken into consideration when the park was built. 
  • Permanent restrooms are one of the biggest additions, Lynn said. The park has been programmed heavily for years, but never had permanent restrooms, he added.

Why it matters: Charlotte/Mecklenburg ranks 83rd out of 100 U.S. cities for its parks system per nonprofit The Trust for Public Land’s annual report, as Axios’ Danielle Chemtob reported.

  • Yes, but: Charlotte did jump up eight spots from the previous year.
  • This is a notable investment in one of the city’s prominent neighborhood parks.

The big picture: Mecklenburg County has more than 60 active parks and recreation projects. And county commissioners approved $50 million last year for the Parks and Recreation department to buy land for future parks, greenways and nature preserves, as Axios’ Katie Peralta Soloff reported.

Zoom out: The county also has $7 million dedicated to improving existing parks through equity funding, starting with Enderly Park. There are 10 total parks, and the next two scheduled for improvements are Tryon Hills Park and Devonshire Park, which should be done by June 2023.

  • Other parks include: LC Coleman Park, Fred Alexander Park, Harrisburg Road Park, Viemont Park, Grayson Park, Amay James Park and Albemarle Road Park.

What’s next: While Independence Park will reopen next month, you may see some landscaping and planting work throughout the year. There will also be a formal unveiling of the park either later this year.

The eastern side of Independence Park facing Hawthorne Lane. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Aug. 24, 2022 and was updated on Feb. 6, 2023 to reflect the delayed opening.

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