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.




Mt. Merrill featured on WRAL’s GoAskMom

Each Friday, WRAL’s GoAskMom features a family-friendly destination.  Today, they stop at Mt. Merrill, Durham Central Park’s new ADA accessible “play mound”. GoAskMom played a big role last year in spreading the word about DCP’s Kickstarter campaign that helped build the playground. For video footage click here.


Go Ask Mom

Destination: Durham Central Park’s Mount Merrill

Durham Central Park already packs in the crowds with its regular farmers’ markets and popular food truck rodeos, which pull in thousands.

Now there’s even more to do on this five acre patch of green space in the midst of downtown Durham. As I wrote last year, the nonprofit that manages the park and the activities there opened Mount Merrill, a play mound that features slides and boulders for kids to scramble around and play. A few weeks ago on a very cold day, I checked in with the park’s Tess Mangum Ocana for a quick tour.

Mount Merrill was built thanks to support from across the community. Donations came in – from simple $1 donations to $25,000 checks. An online fundraising campaign helped raise $25,000 toward the $200,000 goal. Park leaders celebrated its grand opening in December.

The play space is named after Merrill Davis, whose family owns the neighborhood nursery and garden store, Stone Brothers & Byrd. Davis, who was one of the park’s biggest supporters, died in a car accident in 2012. His 2009 wedding was one of the first in the park’s pavilion.

The play mound isn’t a traditional playground, really. It’s a mound with a path leading up to the top of the slides. Park goers can take the path or they can climb over boulders to get to the slides. There are two slides – a taller one and a shorter one. The wide path allows for wheelchairs to approach the top of either slide. The nonprofit is working to add tarps to shade the play mound and its metal slides from the sun. There’s also a climbing net for kids to try out.

The mound sits next to The Leaf, a structure that serves as a meeting space, performance space or resting spot at the park … or a spot for kids to play a little hide and seek or tag. And the large cardinal and turtle, popular for climbing on, are just a few steps away.

The mound is a great addition to a destination that already draws so many people. After shopping at the market or picking out your lunch or dinner at the food truck rodeo, families can stay a little bit longer while the kids climb and slide.

Ocana envisions kids transitioning from playing on the cardinal and turtle to Mount Merrill to the park’s skate park, which sits right up the hill, as they grow. Ocana said there are long-term plans to make upgrades to the skate park, including building another set of bathrooms there. Bathrooms, which are open during park events, already exist at the park pavilion.

“This adds more for kids to do,” Ocana said. “It makes Durham Central Park a destination.”

If you go, you’ll find street parking along Foster, Hunt, Rigsbee, Roney and Corporation streets. Visitors also can park at the Durham Centre Deck at 300 Morgan St., which is two blocks away.

The Durham Farmers’ Market takes place from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturdays, from April to November, and 10 a.m. to noon, Saturdays, from December to March. It’s also open on Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. from May to September. Food truck rodeos are held five times a year. The next one is noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, March 8.

Find Durham Central Park at 501 Foster St., downtown Durham.

‘Mount Merrill’ to be “a children’s magnet” at Durham Central Park

Funds are being raised to build a children’s “climbing mound” in honor of George Merrill Davis III, the former general manager of the garden supply store Stone Bros & Byrd. Durham Central Park leaders are in the early stages of fundraising for the project”  “I just think this would be the most fitting memorial to a sweet guy because this is going to attract children from all over the city,” says Lee Ann Tilley, Durham Central Park board chair. “It’s just going to be a children’s magnet.” From http://www.heraldsun.com/news/localnews/x1385731210/-Mount-Merrill-to-memorialize-former-Stone-Bros-Byrd-manager

Durham Central Park kicks off $120,000 Mt. Merrill/Wanderland fundraising campaign

From the desk of Ann Alexander, DCP’s Executive Director: Saturday, October 19, marked the unveiling of the plans for Mt. Merrill, the next phase of Durham Central Park’s master plan of Wanderland, a children’s interactive play area on the East side of the park. With help from the Exchange Club of Greater Durham, of which Merrill Davis was a beloved member, and other generous donors, we have already raised around $15K of the $120K needed to build and maintain this wonderful structure for the park!  Hundreds of folks, both old and young, gathered in the drizzle to hear about the plans of the play mound and see drawings of what will be built as the next development phase of DCP.  Mt. Merrill is named after Merrill Davis, a longtime DCP neighbor and supporter of the park who died in a tragic car accident in October of 2012. 

Looking East from Foster Street
Looking East from Foster Street

When we asked in a community survey a few years ago what folks wanted to see more of in DCP, the overwhelming answer was,” MORE PLAY AREAS for children…the climbing turtle and bird are great but we need more!”   So DCP’s board has been busy working with Katherine Gil, landscape architect of Tributary Design and Build, to come up with a unique design that is something the kids will love and will be a great addition to the park. As with all other improvements in the park, DCP gets no funding from the city or county. Instead, they raise money from folks, just like you, who consider the park their own and want to see it grow and prosper!  Since we have unveiled the Mt. Merrill design to the community, DCP’s board has begun the fundraising efforts to raise the $120K that is needed to build Mt. Merrill by seeking donations from community members, organizations and businesses who support the park and its efforts to keep DCP the most vital and fun park in Durham!  Join us in our efforts by clicking the donate button in the upper right hand corner! More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/durhamcentralpark/sets/72157636802581893/

Exchange Club check2