A Brief Tour of Rocky Mount's Parks

buck leonard park rocky mount nc 2018

The soft melodies of a calliope flutter through the afternoon breeze. Children anxiously await their turn to take the reins of one of the large, wooden, hand painted carousel horses that have kept watch over Sunset Park for decades. It’s a scene that is repeated over and over during the spring and summer in Rocky Mount.

This picturesque setting is just one of the examples of the wonderful resources Rocky Mount has available through its extensive park system. Today, we’ll take an imaginary journey through some of the city’s parks, looking for both inspiration and historical significance… and we’ll start with the carousel horses in Sunset Park.

A rare find in Rocky Mount: The Sunset Park carousel

In the 1900s, artisans and manufacturers were capitalizing on the popularity of "modern" merry-go-rounds. During this golden age, they poured their talents, resources and abilities into brightly painted prancing steeds and mythological animals.  When the interest in carousels declined, many rides fell into despair.

One of those rare, historic hand painted carousels is - you guessed it - located in Sunset Park. This 1920s Herschell-Spillman "county fair" style carousel was purchased in 1952 by the Rocky Mount Civitan Club. It was severely damaged in the massive 1999 flood in the wake of Hurricane Floyd. Extensive renovations were needed. These repairs included new paintings of Rocky Mount landmarks and activities that mirrored images on 1920s Rocky Mount postcards.

The Rocky Mound at Battle Park

Battle Park is a perfect place to go for a short hike or bike ride. You can climb to the top of the rock outcrops and look over the Falls of the Tar River and Rocky Mount Mills. Perhaps you might like to go down to the "cypress knees" by the river and try your hand fishing for crappie—although locals tell us in the spring you’ll likely find a run of striped bass in addition to American and Hickory shad.

Battle Park is at the site of the "rocky mounds" from which Rocky Mount got its name. This park features:

  •   Boat landings
  • Three picnic shelters
  • Fishing piers
  • A gazebo

Named after a local legend: Buck Leonard Park

This 4.1 acre park is between Grace and High Streets and is named in honor of the Baseball Hall of Famer, Buck Leonard. Leonard played for the Homestead Grays in the 1930s Negro League Baseball. This first baseman batted .320 for his career with a .527 slugging percentage. He’s sometimes referred to as "the black Lou Gehrig."

This park features:
  • A picnic shelter
  • A "Tot lot"
  • Playground equipment
  • Little League baseball field
  • A basketball court

A perfect park to say "I do"

City Lake Park is around 20 acres, featuring a popular walking trail, a gazebo and a lighted fountain. It’s probably one of the most well-recognized landmarks of Rocky Mount.  A visit to the park sometimes features more than fishermen or radio-controlled boat enthusiasts. Often, it features a bride and groom. The park is a popular setting for weddings and for wedding photography. It’s located on Lake Drive off of Sunset Avenue.

There's a wide variety of recreational opportunities through the Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Department.

Of course, our tour is far from complete. There are dozens of parks throughout the city, each one with its unique charm. Whether you’re having a family reunion picnic or just looking for a place to shoot some hoops, you can learn more through the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

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