Jun 5, 2023 - Development

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

The eastern side of Independence Park as you enter off Park Drive. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

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

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Aug. 24, 2022 and was updated on June 5, 2023, to reflect the park reopening.

You’ll no longer see signs reading “PARK CLOSED” and fences blocking the entrance to Independence Park as you move along 7th Street or Hawthorne Lane in Elizabeth.

Driving the news: Mecklenburg County has completed a $5.9 million facelift on Independence Park.

State of play: Construction on the park began in January 2021 and was expected to reopen last October. But like a lot of projects these days, it was delayed by weather and the scheduling of subcontractors, per the county.

Details: Renovations include a wider trail, which connects the park to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, improved playground equipment and accessibility, and permanent restrooms on the west side of the park closer to the renovated American Legion Memorial Stadium.

  • 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.
  • Hawthorne Lane splits the park in two. The eastern side includes a garden and the western side includes a mural by Charlotte artist Georgie Nakima (who goes by Garden of Journey), two sand volleyball courts with a skyline view and the restrooms.

Of note: Be mindful of ongoing construction in the park, like with its two playgrounds, which are currently closed off as new railings are installed.

Why it matters: Charlotte/Mecklenburg ranks 85th out of 100 U.S. cities for its parks system per nonprofit The Trust for Public Land’s annual report, dropping two spots from last year.

The big picture: Mecklenburg County has more than 60 active parks and recreation projects. And county commissioners approved $50 million last year for the Park 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 scheduled for improvements include: Tryon Hills Park, Devonshire Park, LC Coleman Park, Fred Alexander Park, Harrisburg Road Park, Viewmont Park, Grayson Park, Amay James Park and Albemarle Road Park.

What’s next: The county will hold an official reopening event on Thursday, June 29, from 10-11:30am on the western side of the park at the stage near the tennis courts.

  • The Elizabeth Community Association will host a neighborhood picnic in the park that night from 5:30-8:30pm on the western side near the playground.
Garden of Journey mural in Independence Park.
Garden of Journey mural in Independence Park. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
Garden of Journey mural in Independence Park. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
Garden of Journey mural in Independence Park. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
Sand volleyball courts with a skyline view.
Sand volleyball courts with a skyline view. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
Independence Park entrance off Hawthorne Lane facing west. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
Independence Park entrance off Hawthorne Lane facing west. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
Independence Park facing east.
A garden sits on the east side of the park. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
Independence Park facing east.
Eastern side of Independence Park. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

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