Hearing the dreaded “I’m bored” from your kids? Surely, school hasn’t been out long enough for that! Regardless, don’t forget Centennial Park can easily serve as your summer playground. Whether you visit the park to walk or bike, throw the Frisbee or kick the soccer ball, play on the actual playground or cool off in the water rills, chances are a trip to Centennial Park will get you and your family moving. In fact, the park’s role in contributing to a healthier city is just one aspect that the non-profit Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park highlights in its campaign to raise money for the park’s continued revitalization.
“Picture your health. Think of your park as synonymous with wellness,” states the fundraising campaign website, pictureyourpark.com. “Centennial Park’s new plan envisions a beautifully balanced expanse where you and countless others have ample room to recreate, relax and restore in a natural environment that is significantly more sustainable.”
Construction for the second phase, which contains a $30 million price tag, will begin this fall, but initial improvements from Phase One, which wrapped up in June 2015, are ready for all to enjoy. Phase One enhancements, funded with public/private dollars ($9 million, to be exact), included dredging, cleaning and aerating Lake Watauga, constructing a permanent outdoor performance venue for Musicians Corner, unearthing the artisanal Cockrill Spring (which allows for the 56-degree water rills where children now play) and reorganizing roadways and parking around The Parthenon. Phase Two goals include constructing a new outdoor pavilion for a wide variety of events and re-engineering the Great Lawn.
“The next phase of enhancements will transform this cultural landmark into a vibrant, walkable urban green space that will support and flourish alongside our city,” says Sylvia Rapoport, president of the non-profit Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park, which raises funds for park projects.
The 28-acre Great Lawn already provides space for everything from tai chi to football, but Phase Two calls for new allees of trees (90 canopy trees) and wide walkways that will flank the Great Lawn and make the park more walk-able. When Phase Two is completed, a total of 7.5 miles of walking and running trails will have been added.
“Centennial Park offers free, spontaneous outdoor play for children,” Sylvia says, “Space to encourage friendship, adventure, community and respect.”
What’s more, as Nashville continues to grow so quickly, the area around Centennial Park is changing with it. These days, Sylvia says, Centennial Park, once thought of as midtown, really marks the beginning of downtown.
“Condominiums and apartment buildings are popping up in areas around the park,” she says. “They may have balconies, but they don’t have yards. We are their yard.”
Sylvia points to studies that indicate that access to nature in parks has been related to higher levels of outdoor physical activity, lower levels of mortality and illness, restoration from stress and a greater sense of well being. Trees and diverse vegetation also go a long way toward making people happy. While Phase One increased the number of trees in the park by 300 percent, Phase Two’s canopy trees, as well as other shrubs and meadows, will further increase horticultural diversity and support a healthier, more biodiverse environment.
But as you and your family get out to explore and enjoy this ever-improving jewel in the middle of the city, keep in mind that Phase One of the revitalization plan succeeded in making Centennial Park the first, sustainable water-neutral park in the state. Water from Cockrill Spring is used to irrigate the park, making outside sources unnecessary. It also supplies clean water to Lake Watauga, a serene oasis that is home to Centennial Park’s beloved ducks and thriving beehives and enveloped by native trees and blossoms. Phase Two plans, Sylvia explains, will build on that success because the soil and drainage of the Great Lawn will be engineered to recover more quickly after large rains, and water will be captured and reused for irrigation.
“We want to do everything we can to maintain this irreplaceable green space for the city,” Sylvia says.
The Conservancy’s mission is to preserve, enhance and share the Parthenon and Centennial Park so that all future generations may benefit from these enriching cultural and educational landmarks. The Centennial Park Revitalization will transform this irreplaceable space into a model of sustainable ecological practice and horticultural excellence, accommodating modern uses that will both honor the park’s history and ensure it stands the test of time.
If you’d like to support the efforts of The Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park, visit pictureyourpark.com.
This article is sponsored by The Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park.