Tag Archives: Parks

Woodmere Park

Regular readers of Lost in Montgomery know that we’re keen on exploring the City of Montgomery’s park system (90 parks!). We’re interested in outings with the dog and discovering the city’s various flora and fauna. We’ve been out to Blount Cultural Park a few times (keep meaning to write that up), but wanted to take a dog walk at a new place with less goose poop. So one cold Sunday we decided to visit Woodmere Park, across the street from the Shakespeare Festival.

The park is about 20 acres, divided into two sections. When you pull into the parking lot, the section on the left side has trees, a small playground, picnic zones, and a drainage ditch. This part of the park is called the “football field.” You could, in fact, get a game going there. Hopefully your ball would not land in the drainage ditch running past the side of the field, but otherwise it seems nice. The other side of the park has a mile trail around it, and on the day we were there there was not another soul in sight — not even in the back yards of the many houses that border the park. Which we could basically see into the back yards of dozens of houses. Which was kind of voyeuristic and weird. Also it was a cold day, so it’s not a major surprise that there was nobody out in their yards, but still it seemed vaguely like there could have been some kind of zombie apocalypse that we didn’t hear of, and the next “person” we saw while walking the trail might try to eat our brains. Fortunately, this did not occur.

If you go to Woodmere be prepared for the strange inversely proportional ratio of essential equipment (like benches and trash cans) to culverts and drainage ditches. There are a lot of the latter, and not so many of the former.

But, despite all the scenic concrete culverts, the walk is pretty nice. And, unlike walking across the street at the Shakespeare Festival, you don’t get much goose poop on your shoes at all.

Advertisements

Fox Hollow Park

Regular readers will remember that we’re big fans of finding Places To Take The Dog. In service of this goal, we’ve seen some of Montgomery’s worst scenery, trekked to Wetumpka to learn about the French and Indian War, discovered the disturbing truth about our Riverwalk’s sexual preferences and found a competitive (and, it seems, infrequently used) horseshoe pitch.

We’ve driven by Fox Hollow Park on the Atlanta Highway a few times, mostly when going to Health Wise Foods, or the Goodwill, or the mall (the latter usually reached under extreme duress requiring at least one margarita afterward). So the other day – one of approximately two days without rain in December – we decided  to make a trip out of it.

Sadly, the park was not the destination we were hoping for. Which is not to say it wasn’t perfectly nice and inoffensive. It is a well-kept small neighborhood park with some playground equipment, a picnic area (boasting a grill that is clearly not a city-issued device), and an evenly paved trail that goes around the perimeter of the park. The park itself adjoins the Atlanta Highway, so there’s a little traffic noise and the concomitant danger that probably discourages off-leash dog action (not that we would ever do that). It’s nice. The grass is well kept up, and there’s even space to get a flag football game or something like that going. You could throw the Frisbee and there are some nice middle-aged trees. It’s clear that the neighborhood likes the park and probably gets a lot of use out of it.

It’s just not a destination park. That distinction has to be reserved for city parks or the Shakespeare Festival grounds or even Vaughan Park. But Fox Hollow Park is perfectly decent and might make a good place to have a picnic. It makes a nice selling point for the houses in that little neighborhood and we’re glad the city counts it among the many parks that it bothers to maintain.

A Walk through Oak Park

Oak Park. Montgomery, Alabama. A great history of the park can be found here. With roots tracing back to 1899, this park is the crown jewel of the Montgomery Parks and Recreation Department. It is without a doubt a landmark of the city and one of the most important parts of the collective civic fabric. It once had a zoo and pools. It was the crux of a major part of the battle to integrate Montgomery.

A really neat 2007 history of the park (which we have not yet read) is here. We may have to go to Capitol Books and get a copy. Looks great.

It boasts a planetarium (which we intend to review later). The City’s website describes the planetarium as such:

Located in Oak Park, the Gayle Planetarium is one of the city’s educational highlights. Jointly operated by Troy University Montgomery and the City of Montgomery Parks and Recreation Department, this intriguing attraction is open Monday thru Thursday 7:30am to 4:30pm, and Friday, 7:30am to 12pm. Public Shows are offered Monday thru Thursday at 3pm and every Sunday at 2pm.

This facility is one of the largest planetariums in the Southeast!

There’s a great postcard of the park from the early 1900s here. It seems unlikely that the city would produce and market a postcard of the park these days. We took a walk through Oak Park on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in August. Here’s what we saw:

Tuskegee National Forest

It was Veteran’s Day and we were off work, so decided to go hiking. We went to the Tuskegee National Forest, about 45 minutes from Montgomery. It’s one of the smaller National Forests, and the first we’ve checked out around here. It being Veteran’s Day, the ranger station was closed, but we managed to find the trail head just fine. It’s the William Bartram National Recreation Trail, and it loops around the park.

Fall's a good season for this trail

Fall's a good season for this trail

The USDA Forest Service site says the trail is 8 1/2 miles long, but the Alabama Tourism Department site says differently. In any case, we didn’t make the whole loop – although the trail is really nice and well-maintained for the first few miles, we lost the trail a ways in and had to double back. It looked like there were some ties around trees in the area where the trail got lost, but the forest is fairly dense and devoid of landmarks, so we thought the sensible thing to do was to leave. In any case, we walked several miles. The dog came too, in our continuing quest to find things to do with dogs off the leash around here. She’s not so good at coming back when called, and had quite an adventure off by herself for a little while, which caused a little anxiety until she came trotting back covered with brambles and looking quite pleased with herself.

After her adventure, our filthy (and happy) dog

After her adventure, our filthy (and happy) dog

The forest is nice. Evidently it used to be farmland, and was mostly clearcut until it was purchased under the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act (also known as the Submarginal Land Program, according to the USDA). The idea of this program was to buy and repurpose old, used-up farmland. The feds bought the more than 10,000 acres in the 30s, but Tuskegee wasn’t declared a National Forest until the Eisenhower administration.

Also interesting: the main hiking trail here is named for William Bartram, a famous American naturalist (we’d never heard of him, but evidently he had many crazy adventures touring the

The USDA reps Bartram

The USDA reps Bartram

United States and documenting plants, animals, and the native inhabitants), who came through here in 1776. There are a number of things named for Bartram all over the American South. There’s a Bartram Trail that traces his journey through Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Here in Alabama there’s something called the Bartram Canoe Trail, and it seems pretty awesome – more than 200 miles of canoe trails, and campsites that float! Also there’s a William Bartram Arboretum in Fort Toulouse-Jackson Park in nearby Wetumpka. We’ve been meaning to get over to Fort Toulouse – look for more Bartram updates here soon.

After our hike we drove through Tuskegee. Tuskegee University is there, and the campus is lovely. We’ll be making a trip back to check out the museums there. The town itself is pretty decimated – a nice town square area features a lot of empty buildings and not much to do – we decided to save the coffee house for our subsequent trip.

The county court house faces the square, and it is super interesting. The sign out front informed us that Macon County was actually considered for abolition in the 1950s “due to civil rights-era hysteria.” Evidently there was an amendment to the Alabama Constitution (Amendment No. 132 – if you’re at all familiar with the extreme Frankensteinism of the Alabama Constitution, this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg) that voters approved (by a 2-1 margin) to authorize the state legislature to look into abolishing or dissolving the

Gargoyles!

Gargoyles!

county. This remained in the Constitution until Amendment 406 repealed it. The Macon County Courthouse is also the only courthouse in Alabama that has gargoyles on the four corners of the clocktower.

Prattville Wilderness Park

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.