University City

Little-known area park now a nature preserve

The grave stone of Hugh Bain and his wife, Elizabeth Hood Bain, are held up Charlie Kerr. Kerr, 91, has lived in the area for 83 years. He remembers much of the history of the park and the adjoining Bradfield Farms neighborhood.
The grave stone of Hugh Bain and his wife, Elizabeth Hood Bain, are held up Charlie Kerr. Kerr, 91, has lived in the area for 83 years. He remembers much of the history of the park and the adjoining Bradfield Farms neighborhood.

A little-known park in the University City area has become a nature preserve.

According to park entuisiast David Fee, Sherman Branch District Park, at 3824 Camp Stewart Road, is “the best-kept secret in town.” The park – at the corner of Camp Stewart Road and Rocky River Church Road – popular destination for mountain bikers, hikers and joggers

But its “secret” status could change now that it’s a nature preserve under the Mecklenburg County Nature Preserves master plan.

The 209.6-acre park, which bears the same name as a nearby stream, has about 11 miles of single-track mountain bike trails created and maintained by the Tarheel Trailblazers mountain bike club. The park’s trails may be closed during wet periods. Night bike riding is not allowed – the park closes at sunset.

A section of the park is home to the American woodcock, a rare bird species that nests in the tall grasses. Also in the park are two old graves, of Hugh Bain and Elizabeth Hood Bain, who died in 1831 and 1843, respectively. Hugh Bain’s nephew, John Bain Jr., founded Bain Academy in nearby Mint Hill 121 years ago.

In 2007, the County’s Division of Nature Preserves and Natural Resources finished a study of its 46 undeveloped land-banked properties to try to “document natural resources at each site and provide recommendations, where appropriate, for nature preserve designation.” Properties that contained outstanding natural areas or unusual features, or species to be concerned about – as well as plentiful biodiversity – were recommended for nature preserve designation in the department’s 10-year master plan.

The 2008-2018 Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation master plan, updated in April 2015, shows Sherman Branch as a nature preserve.

Bonnie Zoehrer Will is a freelance writer: bonniezwill@gmail.com.

Learn more:

Information about the Tarheel Trailblazers and the Sherman Branch District Park trails: www.tarheeltrailblazers.com.

View the Mecklenburg County Nature Preserve’s Master Plan at www.charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/ParkandRec (type “MasterPlan20082018.pdf ” in the search window).

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