Raleigh quietly pulled the plug on Camp Ranoca. Why?

We met Kelly’s family at a Virginia state park for our new “Cabin Thanksgiving” tradition. Standing around the campfire Friday night, we were close to exhausting our measly repertoire of camp songs when Hallie and Travis giddily led the others through several zany camp songs they had picked up from their summers at Raleigh’s Camp Ranoca. Anything that gets both of my kids to happily cooperate gets my attention and it was obvious they both looked back fondly on their Camp Ranoca experiences.

Hallie was greatly looking forward to the chance to be a camp counselor this summer at Camp Ranoca. She is excellent with kids and loves the camp experience. Goofiness runs in the family (if you couldn’t tell). She would’ve been great. I was probably as crushed as she was when we found out at the beginning of the year that Raleigh had quietly discontinued Camp Ranoca.
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A park is a park. Don’t restrict play!

No fun allowed.

No fun allowed.

This sign in the Iwo Jima memorial park in Arlington last week had me shaking my head. There’s this beautiful expanse of lawn behind this memorial and some bureaucrat wants to keep people from enjoying it! Did anyone stop to think that the men who bled during the battle for that Godforsaken island would’ve probably loved to be in that park, playing ball instead? Is there any better way to honor our country’s freedom than, you know, actually giving people freedom?

Before there was such a thing as public parks, society used cemeteries for this purpose. Picnickers would plop down right by the grave of Great-Great Aunt Martha and celebrate life. Somewhere along the line cemeteries and memorials mistakenly became places of “quiet reflection only.”

I can think of no better way to honor those who’ve passed than to celebrate the life we continue to live.

Dix Park Advisory Committee chosen

Raleigh city council approved the members of the Dix Park Advisory Committee yesterday. My son Travis and I did not make the list. I was disappointed about this for a little while until I recognized how much time I now won’t be spending in meetings. I had cleared the decks to devote the proper time and attention to this but now I am free to pursue other initiatives. Now, how to fill it?

Parks board past

While fueling up at the gas station this morning, I recognized the gentlemen behind me as Ed Morris, the former chair of the Mordecai Historic Park board on which I served for four years. Ed was happy to see me and we caught up for a bit as we haven’t seen each other in far too long.

I was touched when Ed told me I was missed over at Mordecai. Serving on Mordecai’s board was not only a committee assignment for me while I was on the Parks board but it was also a personal treat. I am proud that I participated in the project to create an Interpretive Center at Mordecai and worked with the community to build consensus for the plan. It was a fun group to serve with, and then in a flash it was over.

I’ve turned my attention to other endeavors but I will always be proud of Raleigh’s parks. I hope to continue getting Dix Park designed, which would pretty-much top it all.

Highlights of 2015: investments in health

Waiting to get my septoplasty

Waiting to get my septoplasty

After returning from Jamaica in August 2014 with muscle twitches that wouldn’t seem to stop I decided it was time to take my health more seriously than I had been, so last year I decided to invest more in my health. I began daily walks at lunchtime at work, doing a circuit around N.C. State’s Centennial Campus for about 20 minutes a day. I installed a fitness tracking app from Google called Google Fit to help me keep pace. My goal was an hour of activity per day and I’m proud to say that I regularly exceeded this. Not only that, but I continue to exercise daily. My current job puts my office a little over a mile away, so I frequently walk or bike to work. I love doing this!

2015 was also the year I took advantage of my health care coverage from the Veteran’s Administration. I had several tests done to determine the cause of the twitching (so far nothing definitive, though several baddies have been ruled out). I have to say I’m impressed with the VA. It gets knocked quite a bit but the people are courteous, I’m always whisked back to see the doctor during my appointments, and the quality of care is good or excellent. The only real concern I have is that the majority of useful appointments must take place at the Durham VA hospital. Raleigh has a VA medical clinic but cannot perform most of the most useful tests or procedures.

Driving to Durham for VA appointments is not convenient for me. I can only imagine what veterans with fewer resources have to put up with.
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Planting flags around Dix Park is so 17th century

Raleigh Planning Commission member Matt Tomasulo recently planted thousands of survey flags to lead people around the Dix Park property.

Dude, planting flags is sooooo 17th century. There are apps for this. Create a Google Map with landmarks at the sites worth seeing. Include links to photographs and, more importantly, open up comments for others to say why these sites are meaningful. I’m all for bringing people out to Dix but they should be out there seeing the beauty of the park and not thousands of plastic flags.

With help from thousands of pink survey flags, one city planning commission member is hoping to bring more people to the former Dix hospital site near downtown.

On Tuesday afternoon, Matt Tomasulo and five volunteers planted 4,399 pink survey flags throughout Dorothea Dix Park, creating small trails that will lead visitors around city-owned portions of the property. Tomasulo called it a simple gesture to say thanks to Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Gov. Pat McCrory for making possible Raleigh’s purchase of the former psychiatric hospital campus.

Source: Raleigh Planning Commission member installs hundreds of flags at Dix Park | News & Observer

Highlights of 2015: Dix Park, part II

Dix Park proponents at Council of State meeting. L-R, Mayor Nancy McFarlane, City Manager Ruffin Hall, Councilor Kay Crowder, Dix Visionaries member Jay Spain, Councilor Russ Stephenson

Dix Park proponents at May 2015 Council of State meeting. L-R, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, City Manager Ruffin Hall, City Councilor Kay Crowder, Friends of Dix Park member Jay Spain, City Councilor Russ Stephenson

2015 was the year that the City of Raleigh finally got the prize it had long sought from the state: the deed to the Dorothea Dix property. In February, the city and state worked out a deal for Raleigh to purchase the property for $53 million dollars. This is far more than the original lease terms (under the first deal that was subsequently torn up by a spiteful General Assembly) and also far more than most state property that gets transferred to local entities. Apparently, Republican leaders in the Gereral Assembly have no problem with burdening people with taxes as long as the urban folk who have to pay.

Anyway, this time the deal got negotiated and signed behind the scenes. The group on whose board I sit, Friends of Dorothea Dix Park (FDDP), was largely kept in the dark about negotiations (though I knew talks were underway). It’s all the same now that the park has been secured, though. I did get to attend the following Council of State meeting on May 5th where the rest of state leaders signed off on the deal. This is my photo of city and Dix Visionaries leaders after the historic event.
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Police and Animal Control Respond to Coyote Encounter

Here’s the press release from Raleigh Police on last week’s coyote incident. WRAL’s story identified the man as Stephen Keating, 24.

Many have pointed out that dogs aren’t allowed in Schenck Forest. I suspect this incident might make dog owners think twice about breaking this rule.

On July 1 at about 6:30 p.m., Raleigh Police Department officers, N.C. State University Police Department officers and Raleigh Animal Control Unit personnel responded to a wooded area off the 4800 block of Reedy Creek Road in regard to an incident that involved coyotes shadowing a man and his dog.

The man said he was walking in Schenck Forest when his dog’s behavior caused him to survey their surroundings, and he saw three coyotes. As he reversed his course and began moving away, the coyotes followed and flanked him. The man took shelter on an elevated manhole and called 911.
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Coyotes surround man on Raleigh greenway

I got word yesterday that there was an incident last week where a man walking his dog along Raleigh’s Reedy Creek Greenway was surrounded by “vicious” coyotes and he needed to be rescued by Raleigh Police. Police spokesperson Jim Sugrue is still gathering details and is expected to issue a press release this morning.

Parks bond passes

Election night was sweet for me for one uncommon reason. You see I, along with a few dozen other citizens, served on the citizen’s advocacy committee for Raleigh’s recent $92 million parks bond. As co-chair I was tasked with marketing and PR, including social media. My friend Jeff Tippett was chair of the overall effort and as he has an actual marketing background he was able to fill in for my lack of marketing background. I came up with the fun “I flip for parks” social media campaign and enjoyed posting pictures of notable Raleigh personalities as they “flipped for parks.”

The bond passed with 68% support. I was hoping to beat the 2007 bond’s numbers but considering the political landscape and that it was the largest bond ever floated by the city, I’m pretty happy with 68%.

Starmount does NOT flip for parks

Starmount does NOT flip for parks

Post-election I was reviewing the poll results and noticed there was one precinct that voted decidedly against the bond: the Starmount neighborhood just east of Capital Boulevard. This precinct, 17-10, voted 216 no to 184 yes, or 54% no.

Neither me nor parks staff are entirely sure why Starmount doesn’t flip for parks. The guess is that this is an older population which is averse to taxes but that’s just a guess. It would be interesting to interview a few of these citizens to find out why they voted the way they did.