2017 Golden Leaf Awards

On April 20th, Durham Central Park received two Golden Leaf Awards from the Durham City-County Appearance Commission, Keep Durham Beautiful and the Durham City-County Environmental Affairs Board! 

The Grace Garden wins the Neighborhood Garden and Landscape Award

grace-garden-2The Grace Garden was the first garden installed in Durham Central Park. The garden is dedicated to the memory of Grace Richardson, who died in a tragic drunk-driving accident. After she died, her friends, family and many people that she touched in the community raised the money to create a garden in her memory. It was constructed in the spring of 2001 by dozens of volunteers in a great community building event with Masonry done by TROSA.

In 2008, Meadowsweet Gardens adopted the garden and has cared for the garden for almost 10 years. They maintain the garden as a beautiful oasis twelve months a year. Jonathan Nyberg, the owner of Meadowsweet Gardens says he “never knew Grace when she was alive. But, the first time I entered the garden, I could feel the impact that she had on the community and I felt like it was my duty to maintain the garden as a way of giving back to the community.” 

The Grace Garden is one of several gardens on the west side of Durham Central Park. It offers a secluded and shady but of Zen-like quiet beauty in the middle of the city. The garden features local art by Andrew Preiss, bench seating, and a menagerie of beautiful plant-life.


Mount Merrill wins the Keep Durham Beautiful Award!

The Keep Durham Beautiful is given to a volunteer or group of volunteers for projects, programs or events that impact a Durham community or neighborhood, and address Keep Durham Beautiful’s mission to support volunteer efforts to:

  1. Beautify the natural environment
  2. Prevent or reduce litter and/or
  3. Advance efforts to reduce waste through reducing, re-using or recycling.
Photo courtesy of Jill Knight
Photo courtesy of Jill Knight


Mt. Merrill, as many know, is our interactive children’s play area on the east side of the park. It is a handicap accessible mound that offers 2 slides, a climbing net, a boulder climbing area, and a lookout on top. It was designed by the DCP design committee and Tributary Land Design and then built in 2014 by CT Wilson. Mt. Merrill officially opened in December of that year and has been a nexus of activity in the park since then!

Mt. Merrill is named in the memory of Merrill Davis of Stone Brothers and Byrd. Merrill tragically died in a car accident in 2012. During his life, he was a huge supporter of the Park. He was volunteered his time, expertise, and resources to build the park into what it is today. He and his wife were some of the first people to be married in the park after the Pavilion was built. After Merrill’s death, his friends and family approached DCP about putting a memorial for Merrill at the park. At that time, DCP was starting to work on the plans for a play area for children and it worked out that we were able to work collaboratively to create this fantastic play mound in Merrill’s memory.

mt-merrill-monument-and-benchesOne of the reasons that the judges chose Mt. Merrill for the Keep Durham Beautiful Award because of the incredible amount of community support at all stages of this project. It was designed with the input of the community, particularly parents looking for an exciting place to let their children play. The funding for the project came from all over the Durham community. In addition to a successful Kickstarter campaign, backed by hundreds,  we had major support from local businesses and individuals to make Mount Merrill happen. The key supporters for the project were East West Partners, PNC Bank and The Durham Lions Club (where Merrill was an active member). The other major donors are listed on the monument at the entrance.

Since Mt. Merrill opened, Stone Brothers and Byrd has taken on the (sometimes thankless) duties of keeping the trees and grass growing around Mt. Merrill.  In early 2016, local artist, Al Frega, installed benches that were made from reclaimed limestone cornice stones from the Southern Railway Freight Depot and Durham Marble Works installed the entrance sign. Currently, we are working with Acme Plumbing on the plans to install a water fountain. We are hoping to have that installed by early summer.




Air Bee-n-Bee Coming Soon!

Coming Soon to Durham Central Park… Air Bee-n-Bee!

Air Bee-n-Bee is a bee hotel, which is a sustainable nesting place for solitary bees. Solitary bees, like honey bees, are important pollinators. Healthy pollinator populations are an important part of all ecosystems – agricultural, urban, and natural.  Air Bee-n-Bee will be installed on the east side of the Park in late spring. Once Air Bee-n-Bee bee hotel is installed, DCP will hold a grand opening celebration. Stay tuned!  

Air Bee-n-Bee (pictured on the right) was made as a collaboration between Durham-based, Burt’s Bees and Bee Downtown, a local company that is focused the goal of building healthy and sustainable bee/pollinator communities. It was constructed by Burt’s Bees employees and designed by Gabe Eng-Goetz, the owner of Durham based Runaway Clothing Company. The structure includes the skyline of downtown Durham and lots of space for bees to live and nest in the park.

Support Healthy Pollinator Populations

As we prepare for the installation of Air Bee-n-Bee, we’ll be adding pollinator attracting plants to the Park. You can help too! To welcome and support a healthy bee population, you can plant flowering plants and trees in your yard or on your balcony. Here are a few types of plants that attract and support pollinators:

  •         Spring bloomers: Bee Balm, Cat mint, Stokes Aster, Baptisia, Echinacea, Spiderwort, Lavender
  •         Summer bloomers: Milkweed (Asclepius), Oregano, Passionflower, Black Eyed Susan, Anise Hyssop, Mountain Mint, Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea)
  •         Fall bloomers: Joe Pye Weed, Ironweed, Asters, Goldenrod, Horsemint


More info about Solitary Bees and Bee Hotels

What is a Bee Hotel?

A Bee Hotel is a sustainable nesting place that provides shelter for solitary bees to rest and lay their eggs. Bee Hotels come in many shapes and sizes and can be made from materials such as sections of old logs, untreated wood, or bamboo. Depending on the types of materials that are used, generally the entrances for the bees will range from 2-8cm and are spaced a few centimeters apart. These holes can be quite lengthy in order to prevent predators from reaching the bees. A warm, sheltered location is ideal for a bee hotel, for example a south facing area.

Who Lives There?

Solitary Bees. There are over 2000 species of solitary bees that live in the United States. In fact, most bees are solitary. These particular bees live their entire lives on their own and are responsible for all the foraging, nest building and egg laying.  They are our natural, indigenous pollinators. As the name indicates, they live solitary lives, not in hives as the honeybee.

Are Solitary Bees Aggressive?

No. Because they don’t live in community, they also don’t defend their home as social bees do and are, therefore, very docile and non-aggressive to humans.


Farmers’ Market Celebrates 10 Years in the Park

Opening Day of the Durham Farmers’ Market, 2007 (credit: Eunice Chang)

This Saturday, April 1st, the Durham Farmers’ Market begins its 10th season in Durham Central Park! If you’ve ever wondered how the Durham Farmers’ Market found its home in the Park, here’s a brief history of how it all came together…

The Early Years of the Market

The Durham Farmers’ Market (DFM) started in 1999, with a handful of farmers setting up in the gravel parking lot of the Old Durham Ballpark. The farmers and vendors, all of whom were (and still are) located within 70 miles of Durham, gathered every Saturday during the main growing season – April to November. In their first few years, they had to move around whenever there was a Saturday event at the Ballpark. But, even so, they quickly became a Saturday morning institution.

This location obviously wasn’t ideal. As they grew and became more established, they moved up the street to Measurement Incorporated’s parking lot on Morris Street (where their old sign still resides). Around the same time that they moved to their new parking lot, DFM started discussions with Durham Central Park about the possibility of building a permanent structure in the Park for the Market to call home.

Pavilion Under Construction, 2006 (Credit Bull City Rising Blog)
Pavilion Under Construction, 2006 (Credit Bull City Rising Blog)

In classic DCP form, public input meetings and charrettes were held to gather feedback, insights and ideas from the community about building a home for the Market. Interest and support quickly coalesced around this idea. With the city and the community on board, the designs were made and the task of fundraising began. The City of Durham helped to secure almost $100,000 from a HUD Economic Development Grant and $49,000 from the Durham Open Spaces and Trails Commission. The rest of the money came directly from community members, local business sponsors, fundraising campaigns through the DCP and SEEDS Boards, and an incredible amount of guidance and support from Self-Help Credit Union. In 2006, the structure started going up!


The Market Moves to the Park

Then, on a very cold Saturday morning in April 2007, the Durham Farmers’ Market moved to their new home in Durham Central Park. Farmers drove in from the country with snow on their trucks. But, despite the unexpected cold snap, the mood was festive. There was a dedication ceremony with the city and county councils and everyone was excited for a new era of fresh, local food and community vitality in the Park!

(Photo Credit: Bill Pope)
(Photo Credit: Bill Pope)

The move into the the park was a big turning point for DFM. In 2007, the word of the year was “locavore” and the interest in eating local food grew around both the region and country. Having an established home, and no longer having the air of transience, became the key to the market’s success. Since they moved into the park, it has grown significantly. They have added more than 25 new vendors, expanded to a year round market, added Wednesday hours in 2008, and have made food access a priority through their SNAP and Double Bucks Programs. Every year, restaurants focusing on local and seasonal menus have popped up through Durham and chefs shopping at the Market are now a mainstay, with full bags and tubs of fresh, local food for their menus.

Progress in the Park

The market’s move to the park wasn’t just a turning point for the farmers, but also the Park. Durham Central Park was still in it’s early stages in 2007. The gardens were just being established and having DFM move in as the anchor tenant, gave the community a good reason to visit the Park every week and grow to love it. The turtle and cardinal moved in shortly after the farmers, the skatepark was built in 2010, our Food Truck Rodeos became an institution, Mt. Merrill opened in 2014, and downtown Durham has, for lack of a better word, boomed.

Since 2007, people have found hundreds of creative ways to use the space for weddings, fundraisers, dinners, concerts, exercise classes, rallies, and parties of all sorts. It has become the community gathering space that downtown had  needed. We, on the staff and the board of Durham Central Park, are constantly humbled by the way that the community has built the Park into what it has become today. The Park’s success really has been a direct result of the fact that the Durham Farmers’ Market has found its home in Durham Central Park. Here’s to many more years of working together!


What to Look Forward to This Season

The Durham Farmers’ Market has a lot planned for this season. Here’s a brief snap shot of what to expect in the next couple of months:welcomesign-wintermarket-1

  • Wednesday, April 5 – Kick off of the Wednesday Market! Buy one, get one on bee tote bags and we will have fabric painting supplies available for decorating the bags.
  • Wednesday, April 19 & Saturday, April 22 – Earth Day celebration 
  • Saturday, May 6 – Durham County Bee Keeper’s Association
  • Saturday, May 20 – Field day
  • Saturday, June 24 – Homefries Kid’s Cooking Class
  • Saturday, July 15 & Wednesday, July 19 – Tomato Day
  • Saturday, July 22 – Home Pickling Competition
  • Saturday, July 29 – Homefries Kid’s Cooking Class
  • Saturday, August 19 – Homefries Kid’s Cooking Class

A Birds Eye View of the Park

Last week, on a cold and dreary day, our Executive Director had the opportunity to take a tour of the new Liberty Warehouse Apartments. During the tour, she got to go up to one of the penthouse apartments and was wowed by the great views of the park. Even on that dreary day, the park emanates is subtle beauty and charm. Erin has worked in the park for over a decade (before working for DCP, she managed the Durham Farmers’ Market) but has never had the chance to see the park from this angle. Needless to say, she took lots of pictures and got a few great shots… Enjoy!

Mt. Merrill and the Leaf plus the cardinal and turtle!
The new sidewalk around the great lawn and the skate park!



The Great Lawn is starting to return to green
The Pavilion. Just imagine this would look like during a food truck rodeo, or a concert or the farmers’ market!
The Pavilion and our neighboring crane.
Another view of Mt. Merrill



Waste Reduction and GreenToGo!

In 2016, during our Food Truck Rodeos, we have successfully diverted more than 8000lbs of waste from the landfill by including composting and recycling options! But, it’s not a matter of providing additional cans…

  • Food trucks that come to our rodeos do not use Styrofoam for serving, which means that most of the serving items are either compostable or recyclable
  • Waste warrior volunteers staff the stations to help customers divide up their waste into the proper bins
  • Food Truck Rodeo customers are interested in reducing their waste while enjoying great food
  • We have developed relationships with like-minded organizations, like Keep Durham Beautiful, Food FWD, and Don’t Waste Durham who have helped to make this waste reduction project happen

greentogoKDB, Food FWD and Don’t Waste Durham work on waste reduction in many ways. But, right now, Don’t Waste Durham is working to revolutionize how Durham does take out by introducing a reusable take-out container called the GreenToGo Box! DWD is in the final stretch of a Kickstarter campaign to get the project off the ground. Please consider supporting our partners in continuing to reduce waste in our lovely city!

GreenToGo is a community-owned trash solution that lets people check in and check out boxes which are washed and sanitized in commercial dishwashers. This program is already succeeding in Portland and San Francisco – we want Durham to be the first city on the East Coast!

But this campaign is much bigger than just to-go boxes in Durham, NC. DWD is developing an effective reuse model for our community and for the OTHER communities where they can bring the program next – Raleigh, DC, NYC, London, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro! DWD is on the front lines of planting the seeds of change in people’s hearts and minds to think reuse instead of single-use disposables. Reuse is the future! So if you support the idea of reuse – even in PRINCIPLE alone – please back Durham GreenToGo!

The Iron Furnace – Liberty Art Iron Pour at the Park


Durham Central Park and Liberty Arts Sculpture Studio & Foundry will have a public iron pour at Durham Central Park, Friday, November 18 from 5-9 p.m. After sunset, 1,500 pounds of molten, 2,500 degree iron will be poured into molds, in an exciting fiery display, including Liberty Arts artists’ work for sale, live buskers (street musicians), local food trucks Captain Cookie and The Milk Man – NC, Route Bistro LLC and Fullsteam Brewery beer. Durham resident fire spinners start at 7 p.m. November 18 is also Third Friday Durham, Durham’s monthly gallery crawl and studio tour evening.

The public has three opportunities to make their own mold and cast iron art at the Liberty Arts Foundry at Durham Central Park during three pre-pour workshops, which cost $30 each. You will be able to take home your iron sculpture that day after it cools off:

• Saturday November 12, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
• Thursday November 17, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
• Friday, November 18, 2:30-7 p.m.
Register here

For information about the scratch block workshop, contact Liberty Arts at [email protected]

Admission to the iron pour is free. Blankets and folding chairs welcome. Fullsteam Brewery will serve from 5-9 p.m. and weather permitting, Third Friday Durham buskers (street musicians) will perform from 6-8 p.m.

Not sure what to expect at an Iron Pour? Check out this video of a pour that Liberty Arts did a few years ago.

Durham Central Park competes for $25K grant and needs your vote!


We need YOUR vote for $25K! Durham Central Park, Inc. is now in the running to bring a FREE 10 week live music series to Durham, June-August 2017.

Sponsored by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, a national foundation dedicated to strengthening the social fabric of America through free live music, Durham Central Park hopes to qualify as one of 15 winning organizations competing in the Levitt AMP Durham Grant Awards.

The awards are an exciting matching grant opportunity created by the Levitt Foundation to serve small to mid-sized towns and cities with populations up to 400,000. Up to fifteen nonprofits will receive $25,000 each in matching funds to produce their own Levitt AMP Music Series—an outdoor, free concert series featuring a diverse lineup of professional musicians.

Durham Central Park’s proposal is now posted on the Levitt AMP website for public voting: http://levittamp.org. If successful, Durham Central Park will partner with Durham-based Art of Cool Project on three of the ten concerts. A successful campaign for Durham Central Park depends on community participation to get as many online votes as possible to bring the concert series to town. Community support, as measured by the number of online votes received, will be one of the key factors when the Levitt Foundation selects up to 15 winners.

Supporters are asked to visit https://grant.levittamp.org/voter-registration-page/ to register and vote. Online public voting is now open and ends November 21 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. The Top 25 finalists will be selected through online public voting. The Levitt Foundation will then review the proposals of these 25 finalists and will select up to 15 Levitt AMP winners, which will be announced on January 5, 2017.

Durham Central Park’s public surveys and charettes show people value Durham Central Park as a gathering place and want more FREE concerts at the Park. This is the way we can make it happen, with your help,” says Tess Mangum Ocaña, who co-wrote the grant with DCP Executive Director Erin Kauffman.

Durham Central Park asks supporters to start spreading the word to family, friends, colleagues and neighbors and rally the community to sign up and vote for Durham Central Park’s proposal. Voters must be 18 years of age or older and U.S. residents (or residents of U.S. territories.)


Durham Central Park is the five-acre downtown oasis on Foster Street. DCP is a city park, developed and maintained by Durham Central Park, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization.

Goats at the Park!


Next Thursday, November 3rd, DCP will be the temporary residence of a crew of goats from The Goat Squad! These goats will be tasked with the job of cleaning up (eating) the kudzu that has grown over the small section of the Ellerbe Creek on the northern most end of the Park (at Roney and Corporation Streets, across from the ballpark lot). You may not even know that the creek is daylighted in that area! It’s kind of hard to see it because so much has grown over it in the past couple of year. But, these 4-legged critters will be hard at work eating as much kudzu and undergrowth as possible!

Then on Saturday, November 5th, from 9-Noon, we will have our monthly volunteer cleanup workday. During the workday, volunteers can go into the creek are and help the goats out by pulling the kudzu that they can’t reach off the trees. All are welcome to join. Plus you’ll get to pet the goats! The workday will start at the red table by the Grace Garden (at the bottom of the stairs on Roney Street).

Many thanks to the Rickhouse and Picklefest for helping to make this happen! The fine folks at the Rickhouse chose DCP to be the beneficiary of the funds raised during their Picklefest in July. They raised $2400 for the Park and with that donation, we are able to bring goats to do this work!!

The goats will be cleaning up this section of the creek for 4 days, from November 3-6. Stop by and check out their progress. It’s going to look much different once their work is done!


Construction Advisory

You may have noticed that the construction fence on the east side of the Park moved a little closer to the street yesterday. Here’s what’s happening….

The workers have pulled up a few pieces of the sidewalk to install a storm drain to assist with the drainage from the hillside. The new drain will help the section of the park between Mt. Merrill and the Liberty Arts Foundry from getting so muddy.

This project should take about one week from start to finish. The sidewalk will be re-installed and depending on the weather, should be re-open next week. Access to Mt. Merrill and the Liberty Arts Foundry will NOT be impacted during this project.

The new loop sidewalk construction on the hillside is progressing slower than expected. All of the rain has delayed the process. But, now that the sun is out, they are moving along. We’ll keep you posted!

The Skate Park repairs are all finished and it is open for skating once again! If you see someone from Parks and Rec, make sure to give them a high five for helping to make the repairs happen.

Thanks to all for your patience with this process!