RALEIGH – Parks and natural spaces development is an important element of a growing city, and a local nonprofit is working to aid in that effort.
The City of Oaks Foundation, started in 2009, is a private nonprofit that works with the Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department.
“We have a mission of trying to get people outside and active,” said Chris Heagarty, executive director of the foundation. “Raleigh has wonderful green space. Visitors to Raleigh always comment on the amount of trees, the parks, everything we have here.”
Heagarty’s job, and the foundation’s mission is to work to aid the city with parks-related project as well as create original programming for nature-related education and experiences. While City of Oaks works with a variety of city staff from parks around the city, Heagarty points to the recently renovated Sassafras All Children’s Playground in the northern portion of the city.
“That’s a park that we will help to raise awareness about, program, and get more people to know about the Sassafras story” Heagarty said. The foundation also works with other city parks to aid in summer camp planning for children. Raleigh strives to have affordable summer camp programs throughout the city.
The City of Oaks Foundation also hosts events at the Joslin Garden, a 4.5-acre tract of land donated for public use. Part of Heagarty’s job is developing the garden, and the house that sits on the property, to make it a space available for visitors. The property will not be fully accessible, Heagarty said, because doing so would necessitate the destruction of some of the trails, natural plants, and other facets that make up the garden.
“What we want to do, then, is concentrate and say ‘if 100 percent of the property isn’t accessible, what can we do to make as much of it accessible as we can?,’” he said.
Looking forward, there are plans to create some low-grade areas accessible to people with mobility challenges to see the trellises and topiaries nearer the front of the property.
One principle Heagarty keeps in mind is to notify participants if portions of an event may not be accessible to everyone. That gives people advanced notice to make plans, which he said is something advocates for and within the disabled have shared is beneficial in planning.
“When we host events at a site without full accessibility, we think it’s our obligation to make that known on the front end,” he said.
I'm a recovering journalist now living a Renaissance life working as a writer & political strategist. I also am the mom to 2 children, one of whom has autonomic dysfunction & Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder, I write about politics and healthcare in North Carolina.