Big and Exciting Changes Ahead

By Heather Wood

It is no surprise that Kernersville has seen a lot of growth in the last year. With new shopping centers, neighborhoods, restaurants and more, our little town has really become a remarkable place to call home. The Town of Kernersville has acquired new land and approved renovations for various parks to match our blooming community.

On December 22, 2017, the Town of Kernersville and its citizens received a remarkable gift from Scott Pope, a local developer, who donated 79.4 acres of parkland to be named for his parents, Etta Lea and Lawrence Pope. The stipulation of this gift is that the land must be used exclusively as a park.

The land currently borders the new Lowes Foods shopping center and is located off Southern Street. It also borders the surrounding McConnell Homes, Lake Drive, and Christy Acres communities. The undeveloped tract of land is the largest property in the center of Kernersville. The Town’s currently approved and budgeted greenway already runs through it, along with other adjacent Town owned properties, making the total land 86 acres.

Mr. Pope envisions this property becoming the Kernersville version of Central Park in New York City. While Central Park is 837 acres, the Kernersville Parks and Recreation Department has been studying the well-known park and has discovered/identified various themes. Themes such as rich historic callbacks, the mixture of nature and program areas, and enhancing the existing natural habitats.

The first order of business has been to develop a steering committee made up of stakeholders, Town staff, elected officials, members of the Kernersville Recreation Advisory Board, as well as Scott Pope. The goal of this committee is to guide, advise, and development a site plan. It is important that this park blends with the current greenway system, the community’s needs, the current regional inventory, and Mr. Pope’s vision.

The second step in the process is to gather public input from citizens by holding public meetings with groups and individuals that are interested in components to the park.

The third step will be implementing all the information we have gathered from various groups in the community (i.e.: additional costs, phases, various funding and estimated time to break ground). Director of Parks and Recreation, Ernie Pages, states, “It is important that we proceed strategically and thoughtfully with this opportunity. This gift by Mr. Pope is a game changer for the entire Town of Kernersville. This park will be a unique and special park that will make citizens proud.”

While riding through Downtown Kernersville, I am sure many have noticed what once was a building is now an open green space. Current plans are being finalized for the future home of a new downtown park on the corner of Main Street and Mountain Street (previously occupied by the old School Tools building). Crews have been surveying the property and construction is set to begin soon, with a completion time for the month of June. All funding for the park has been allotted. The park will have several unique components such as a water feature in honor of Etta Lea and Lawrence Pope, a statue of Jules Korner, seating for eating, reading, or relaxing, and a short pathway with historical markers highlighting significant dates in Kernersville’s history.

With so many new and exciting plans for new parks in Kernersville, there will also be upgrades to existing parks as well.

Portions of Fourth of July Park will be closed for several months while Kernersville Parks and Recreation completes renovations. The playground area and sections of the walking trail will be blocked off in order to provide installers space to work and keep patrons safe. We will be removing parts of the existing playground and replacing it with new equipment in hopes to make it more inclusive. Inclusive playgrounds are thoughtfully designed to provide a safe place where children of all abilities can play together, and appropriate for children with or without disabilities. An inclusive playground focuses on the following components to ensure a positive, engaging experience for all children:

Engagement – Inclusive playgrounds provide a number of different opportunities for children to explore. They integrate all the senses and encourage social play. There is a little something for everyone, including those that like to climb, run, spin, slide, swing, and more.

Integration – A true inclusive playground does not mean that there is special equipment in a separate area off to the side, but rather a space designed as a cohesive community where play opportunities are integrated throughout. This is important for social development.

Promote Inclusion – Just as the name suggests, inclusive playgrounds have another mission that goes beyond the physical accommodations and specialized equipment. These playgrounds do so much for the community. They educate and bring families and people together. They stress the importance of inclusion in everyday activities, no matter the ability level. They prove that kids of all abilities enjoy exploring, learning, interacting, and having fun together. They stress compassion and the inclusion of those that are different from you. That is a lesson that benefits us all.

Physical Accommodations – Accommodating physical disabilities is one component of an inclusive playground. This includes meeting ADA requirements by providing a wheelchair accessible route and ramps/transfer points. Customized equipment such as special swings allow all kids to enjoy the playground as it is meant to be enjoyed.

An inclusive playground takes away the barriers to exclusion, both physical and social, providing a “sensory rich” experience for all.

In addition, the park will be undergoing a few other changes/improvements. Various trees throughout the park that have been marked dead, diseased, or damaged will be removed. This is for the safety of park goers and their families. Resurfacing of the walkways and pathways will also take place, since throughout the years aging roots from trees have cracked the existing pavement. Kernersville Parks and Recreation will also be installing new rest areas along the path that will also mimic the updated playground with play units at various sites that incorporate musical pieces that bring attention to individuals with disabilities.

In 2015, the Kernersville Parks and Recreation Department asked for community input regarding the future vision for Civitan Park on Nelson Street. The site plan for renovations to this park include a tennis complex, a water feature, enhanced trail exercise, a new playground, and extended parking. After further review, the Department rearranged the layout to accommodate for the Fourth of July fireworks, and other concerns. Phase one for this park will be the tennis complex, and construction will begin in the coming year.

Kernersville Parks and Recreation will also be hosting a new event this May that celebrates Hispanic heritage and encouraging all communities to come together for a fun family event. The Carnaval will have live music, raffles/giveaways, food trucks, vendors, and games! Planning for this is underway. Stay tuned for upcoming additions on our website at

We are looking forward to continuing to see Kernersville grow and to offer our citizens a place to live, work, and play!

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