Westgate Nature Park: A Space for Enjoying the Great Outdoors
One very wacky-weathered winter has left us all itching for a steady forecast of 70-degree sunshine and opportunities to enjoy the outdoors without risk of being caught in a hurricane, torrential downpour or arctic freeze (sometimes all in one day).
Well, grab your picnic basket, kids, good book or bike and head to the area’s newest outdoor experience to soak up some long-awaited warm weather.
Leland’s first major park is now open for walking and riding, learning and lounging, playing and picnicking. Tucked away near the Westgate (Walmart) commercial center and residential area on the south side of U.S. Highway 17, the recently completed Westgate Nature Park offers nearly 150 acres of walking trails, play structures, fields, picnic areas and learning environments.
Thanks to a $500,000 grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, Westgate Nature Park was created to help maintain a balance between the booming residential development and the cherished environment that makes Leland unique.
“That area of town — the whole Westgate area — is zoned for multi family, which basically means a lot of people crammed into a small space,” explains Leland Parks and Recreation Director Niel Brooks.
“With the amount of growth that Leland has been experiencing, we recognized a need to provide a place for people to get out and have somewhere to take their kids, to learn about the area and to have some space reserved just for nature,” Brooks says. “The project proposal was recognized as the number one project in the state. Even the folks in Raleigh thought that the Westgate area was the perfect place for a park amenity.”
Westgate Nature Park offers 0.3 miles of 10-foot-wide paved and elevated boardwalk trails, two age-appropriate play structures, picnic areas, water fountains, pet water stations and pet waste stations, an event lawn, parking and an outdoor classroom that offers opportunities to learn about Leland’s coastal wetlands and ecosystems.
“We’re talking to Cape Fear River Watch about potential programs for environmental education,” says Brooks. “The property backs up to the north side of Jackeys Creek, so there are some great views of woody wetlands from the outdoor classroom. The platforms off of the elevated boardwalk give a unique perspective of that environment.”
With the allocation of additional funding and agreements with adjacent property owners, the town’s goals are to add numerous outdoor classrooms and outlooks and to expand the trails to total more than 5 miles.
“With Westgate, our goal — now and in the future — is to focus on the natural environment and outdoor recreation,” says Brooks. “It’s a nice place for people to come enjoy with their families, get exercise and enjoy the outdoors.”
Westgate Nature Park is open daily from dusk to dawn and is free to the public. Pets are allowed, as are bikes, scooters and inline skates. Motorized vehicles are not permitted.
For more information and conceptual plans for Westgate Nature Park, visit www.townofleland.com/recreation-parks.