This is a strange one. We’ve been on a quest recently to find places to walk the dog where she can go off-leash without freaking out tiny children and their parents or running into traffic. But if there’s a place where Montgomery residents go to frolic with their off-leash dogs, we haven’t found it yet. We’d love to hear from others who have places they recommend – we miss going to the abandoned golf course next to the University of Alabama’s Arboretum in Tuscaloosa. There seem to be some good places to hike around here, but they’re a ways off – hardly just a quick Saturday exercise trip for us & the dog.
After some searching on the Internet, we found this webpage with information about the Prattville Wilderness Park, and headed up the 65. First thing: the directions on this site are circuitous and intended for those coming south on 65. There is a much easier way to get there, but we didn’t know that since this was the only information we had about the place. Better directions are here. It’s very close to the Daniel Pratt Historic District of Prattvillle, a destination we left for another trip.
The park was the first wilderness park designated within the limits of an American city. It doesn’t have a name. It’s just “Wilderness Park.” Evidently in the 1940s a packet of seeds arrived in the mail to a gentleman living in Autauga County (Mr. Butler, the last owner of the land before it was bought by a service club called the Spinners Club, which subsequently sold the park to the city of Prattville). These seeds were for an exotic plant called bamboo, seldom seen in the American South. Decades later, there is a full-on bamboo forest in this 26-or-more acre park. It really is unusual and unexpected.
There’s a small sign on the road, and a dirt parking lot with a picnic table at the entrance. We didn’t see any other cars or people when we were there on a Saturday. The trail in gives no sense of what’s to come – could be any other park. But then, when you make a turn, there is bamboo. Lots of it. And it’s HUGE, and REALLY tall. The light filters through the stuff in a sort of magical way.
Too bad the trail’s so short. It’s really short. You can go around twice (as we did), but that’s about it. Our dog seemed to really enjoy the park as a place to run around, but it’s not really worth the drive to Prattville for a dog exercise trip. It is worth the drive to go see this thing, which is less wilderness park than giant terrarium, a testament to someone’s long-ago curiosity about exotic plants and the city’s subsequent embrace of its eccentricities.