A soaked 3-year-old Cooper Broach shivered at uptown’s newest urban park Saturday, but he kept leaping through First Ward Park’s shooting geysers during a belated Earth Day celebration.
“He’s an ice cube,” said Cooper’s grandmother, Jill Bieri of Charlotte. As she spoke, she grabbed the boy and asked him to stop long enough for her to wring out his shirt.
But he broke free and ran through another spout of water, giggling the whole way. “Nothing stops him,” his grandmother said, giggling, too.
The park opened in dramatic style December. But Saturday’s events – a day after the official Earth Day celebration – were the kick-off to planned weekend activities from now on. They were held Saturday instead of Friday so families could come to the park together, said Stephen Hutchinson, manager of park and rec’s environmental education.
Besides the water park, face painting and live music, more than 20 government and nonprofit groups manned booths and talked about what Earthlings can do to protect their planet.
“What a day to celebrate the Earth,” said Ernie Calloway of Denver, in Charlotte on business. “I got here early and thought I’d take a look at your city. I found myself wandering in this park. It’s very nice.”
Indeed the park was the star.
It was built on 4 acres of former surface parking lots between Seventh Street at the ImaginOn museum and Ninth Street at UNC Charlotte’s Center City Building – part of the county-city 2020 vision plan that places a major urban park in each of uptown’s four wards.
Second Ward now is the only ward without one, but that could be coming soon.
The new park has ambitious hopes attached: It is intended to be the centerpiece of a new urban village in uptown’s First Ward assembled by developer Daniel Levine. He aims to turn nine blocks once dominated by parking lots into offices, shops, residences and hotels. He partnered with the county to build the park.
If anything, the success of Romare Bearden Park in Third Ward has shown parks are good draws for development. Levine said last week that having some features like the park built had made it easier to market First Ward.
They’re a good draw, too, for parents or grandparents with young children. Troyanna Shaw and her 5-year-old daughter Taylor spent Saturday morning helping clean up the surrounding neighborhood with other members of her church. Afterward, they walked to the park, got Taylor’s face painted and listened to music.
They know the park – the church meets Sundays at the UNCC building.
“Afterward we bring the children and let them run off some energy,” Shaw said. “This is such a nice park – it’s a great addition for this community.”