CHARLOTTESVILLE AND ALBEMARLE PARKS
Azalea Park: Azalea Park offers a softball field, two basketball courts, an off-leash dog area, a playground and access to the Rivanna Trails Foundation trail along Moores Creek. In addition, community garden plots at the park are available for annual rental at $50/plot for city residents, $70/non-residents. Azalea's 23 acres lie on Old Lynchburg Road just north of Interstate 64.
Forest Hills Park: Forest Hills offers a picnic shelter, playgrounds, trails, two full basketball courts and views of Carter's Mountain on 7.35 acres. And for those sweltering days, check out its 6,000-square-foot spray ground open every day through September.
McIntire Park: The city's second-largest park is in flux. The 150 acres donated by Charlottesville's premier parks' benefactor, Paul Goodloe McIntire, was sliced to 130 acres when the U.S. 250 Bypass was built. Another road, the Meadow Creek Parkway, now under construction, goes through the park, and its under-construction interchange is another disruption. The city has leased land in the park for a YMCA, and on the east side of the park, a new master plan is under consideration that would ax the public golf course and add a botanical garden and the interchange-relocated skate park. Currently, McIntire is best known for the Dogwood Festival carnival in April, fireworks on the 4th, its softball and baseball fields, playground, and three picnic shelters that accommodate 70 to 120 people— although only one of them is open now. Rentals range from $70 to $105, depending on the size of the shelter (970-3260). The proposed master plan for the eastern portion of the park is available here.
Meade Park: Meade Park's five acres at the corner of Meade Avenue and Chesapeake Street are the home of the wildly popular, amenities-packed Onesty Family Aquatic Center that opened June 20, 2009. And on Wednesdays from May to September, the pool shuts down as farmers bring their goods to the park from 3 to 7pm.
Meadowcreek Gardens: A prime Charlottesville area for gardening real estate lies off the Route 250 Bypass on Morton Drive behind the English Inn and the Emmet Street Bodo's. The area known as "The Fairgrounds" is most renowned for its 73 community garden plots available for annual rental at $50/plot for city residents, $70/non-residents. A footpath through the woods traverses another undeveloped 20 acres of the park.
Meadowcreek Golf Course: Located at Pen Park, this 18-hole championship layout offers outstanding vistas of the southern mountains, challenging terrain changes, and a fun layout for all levels of golfers. Home to The First Tee of Charlottesville, an international youth development program focused on the game of golf. Practice range, putting green and instruction available. For current greens fees and bonus offers, contact the Pro shop at 977-0615.
Pen Park: The largest park in Charlottesville— at 280 acres— has been known as Pen Park for over 200 years, according to city info. The park's varied topography offers a mountain vista backdrop to recreational activities that include eight tennis courts, a Little League baseball field, volleyball court, outdoor fitness trail, and a playground. The handicap-accessible course features 20 exercise stations leading to the Rivanna River. Pen also offers three lighted picnic shelters, each of which can accommodate 80 people and are available for reservation from April to October for $80.
Quarry Park: Off Monticello Avenue on Quarry Road, Quarry Park sits where a road once led to an old stone quarry. The park's nine-plus acres offer two baseball fields, a tee-ball field and access to the Rivanna Trails Foundation trail loop along Moores Creek.
Riverview Park: These 26.6 acres bordering the Rivanna River at the eastern edge of the city, formerly part of Riverview Cemetery, morphed several years ago into a family hiking paradise. Known initially as the Rivanna Green Belt, in March 2004 the original tar-and-gravel trail was covered with asphalt and then striped in May 2005. In addition to the long walking, jogging, and biking trail, Riverview offers a picnic area with a large paved parking area, information center, playground, grill, two benches, and an open field. The Belt is also handicap-accessible, and leash law restrictions are waived on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Tonsler Park: The almost-always-bustling Tonsler is Charlottesville's version of Centre Court at Wimbledon. Tonsler Park has numerous amenities, including a recreation center, basketball courts, playground, Little League field, and four tennis courts. Located at the corner of 5th Street and Cherry Avenue, it is one of the more popular parks in the city.
Washington Park: One of the most historic parks in Charlottesville was dedicated to the famous African-American rights leader Booker T. Washington in 2001. Over a century ago, Washington became a close college friend of Charlottesville educator Benjamin Tonsler, who has his own park. Despite its meager nine acres, Washington is another really popular park with three basketball courts, a lighted outdoor pool with wading area and bath house, a recreation building, playground, and restrooms. At the bottom of a grassy hill are two basketball courts, a softball field, and multi-use field. The Dave Matthews Band donated a playground and picnic shelter, and the park has a handicapped accessible bog garden. It's one of the area's top sledding sites on snowy days in winter. The park is also the site of the African-American Cultural Arts Festival the last weekend in July.
Schenk's Greenway. One of the city's newest parks, Schenk's meanders along McIntire Road near the McIntire Recycling Center and features Art in Place. It will eventually connect with McIntire Park on the north side of the 250 bypass.
Charlottesville Skateboard Park. This park is in transition during the Meadow Creek interchange construction and temporarily resides in McIntire Park. Eventually, plans call for it to take over two acres of the McIntire Park— where the wading pool and playground once were— and become one of the most state-of-the-art skate parks on the East Coast. In the meantime, the temporary park is open from 4 to 9pm weekdays, and noon to 9pm on weekends. Helmets (required) and pads are available to those who need them and liability waivers are required.
CITY-COUNTY JOINTLY OWNED PARKS
Darden Towe Memorial Park: This beautiful park by the Rivanna is known in some circles as "the dog park," for good reason. In addition to the park's three softball fields, four multi-purpose fields for soccer, lacrosse, and football, and four tennis courts, a small part of the park's 110 acres is fenced to allow dogs to frolic and owners to socialize. Visitors also enjoy access to the Rivanna River and a picnic shelter with electricity, open grills, and seats for up to 50 people for a $55 fee. Darden Towe, on Route 20 North/Stony Point Road, is open year round from 7am-dark.
Ivy Creek Natural Area: Managed by the Ivy Creek Foundation, this gorgeous 215-acre natural area offers seven miles of walking trails, but with a strict set of rules that prohibits pets, jogging, hunting, and collecting specimens. The volunteer Ivy Creek Foundation provides nature programs throughout the year. Members of the Monticello Bird Club lead monthly bird walks through the area while members of the Virginia Native Plant Society lead a plant walk on the third Saturday of every month. Off Earlysville Road near the Reservoir.
Ragged Mountain Natural Area: Another paradise for sturdy hikers, Ragged Mountain offers beautiful but somewhat challenging trails– but is currently closed because of construction of a new dam. A variety of trees presumably will survive the clearing, including mature oak, hickory, poplar, pine, and maple that surround the 980-acre park's two lakes along four miles of total shoreline. Once reopened, trekkers should allow at least two to three hours to complete the somewhat treacherous seven-mile hike around the area's perimeter. The trail ascends 850 feet into the Ragged Mountains. In order to protect the wildlife, water quality, and serenity of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, no dogs, jogging and running, bikes, collecting, horses, hunting, swimming, and camping are allowed. Located off Reservoir Road beyond the Fontaine Avenue exit from the 250 Bypass, the Natural Area is open 7am-dusk.
Beaver Creek Lake: With more water than any other county park (219 land acres, 104 water), Beaver Creek is a fisherman's dream with sunfish, channel cats, and large-mouth bass. Because it's the water supply for Crozet, no swimming nor gasoline-powered boats are allowed, but picnic tables are scattered throughout the park along with seasonal restrooms. Beaver Creek is open 6am-10pm year round and lies off U.S. 250 west on Brown's Gap Turnpike (Rt. 680).
Chris Greene Lake: The park's 120 acres of land, 62 acres of water, and two acres of beach offer swimming and canoe rental, a wheelchair-accessible fishing pier, and two main picnic shelters with electricity and available seating for 50 people each. Eight picnic tables and five grills are also scattered throughout the park located off Route 680 on its own Chris Greene Lake Road. Dogs can go off-leash in the fenced dog park– and take a dip in the roped-off area of the lake.
Dorrier Park: Despite its small size, Dorrier provides numerous athletic opportunities. Near Scottsville, the two-acre park has softball and soccer fields, two tennis courts, and a walking path. A picnic shelter with electricity seats 50 (with restrooms!). Off Page Street in Scottsville.
Mint Springs Valley Park: Mint Springs' water territory (eight acres water, two acres beach) offers public swimming. In addition to regular fishing regulations, Mint Springs also provides licensed trout fishing October-June. Mint Springs' whopping 502 acres contains picnic tables and grills, two picnic shelters seating 24 and 48, and a variety of hiking trails, including a half-mile lake trail and a nearly two-mile fire trail. Mint Springs tragically became famous when Piedmont Airlines Flight 349 plunged into its hillside, killing 26 people, in October 1959. The lone survivor, Phil Bradley, helped develop a monument at the crash site dedicated in 1999 to those who lost their lives in the accident. The park is located on Mint Springs Road off Route 684.
Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve Park: Albemarle's newest park opened in August 2011 in the northwest nether region of the county, bumping up against the Shenandoah National Park. Its 600 acres contain trails– strenuous trails– for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Head 22 miles west of Charlottesville to 6610 Blackwells Hollow Road.
Preddy Creek Trail Park: This is the first of two parks the county opened in 2011, and Preddy Creek also is set up for horseback riding. The park is 571 acres and has 8.6 miles of trails. it's located in far northeast Albemarle at 3690 Burnley Station Road.
Simpson Park: For a smaller park, Simpson provides numerous athletic sites through its 13-plus acres featuring a water spray area and a sunning plaza open May-October. The facility also offers a Little League baseball field, a multi-purpose field open to the public, two tennis courts, and a basketball court. A 32-person picnic shelter with open grills is available, as are seasonal restrooms. Simpson is located off Route 627/Porter's Road on Simpson Drive.
Totier Creek: Totier provides a simple and quiet fishing environment for folks hoping to reel in the catch of the day. Hike the three miles of trails on the park's 144 acres, but don't try to swim in the 66 acres of water– it's the water supply for Scottsville. Picnic tables are scattered throughout the park along with seasonal restrooms.
Walnut Creek: Walnut Creek is one of the few parks in the area offering a balanced combination of land, fishing, and athletic activities. Its 525 acres boast a 34-acre disc golf course and 15 miles of trails for biking, hiking, and running. Swimming is available, along with canoe rental and two picnic shelters seating 42 (one with electricity)– but only one during swim season. Four more picnic tables are scattered throughout the park, and restrooms are also available. Walnut Creek is off old Lynchburg Road.
Charlotte Y. Humphris Park: Near Albemarle High School, this used to be called "Whitewood Park," but was re-christened in honor of this beloved late Albemarle County supervisor and advocate for rural preservation.
Also in Albemarle...
There are plenty of places to go on a stroll around Charlottesville, and much of it wouldn't be possible without the Rivanna Trails Foundation, which has established a network of footpaths encircling the City of Charlottesville, generally following the course of the Rivanna River and its tributaries. In fact, ambitious hikers can complete a 20-mile circuit in one day.
Thomas Jefferson Parkway: The Saunders-Monticello Trail, a meandering two-mile path connected by wooden walkways from Kemper Park on Route 53 up Carter's Mountain to Monticello is one of the more scenic strolls and with a mere five percent grade, it's not too strenuous. Dogs must be on leash and are not permitted on the wooden walkway portion of the trail, but other paths throughout the 100-acre Secluded Farm property, which is also part of the Thomas Jefferson Parkway, offer miles of trails and picnic opportunities for humans and leashed canines.
Belmont Park: Not your typical neighborhood park, Belmont balances play and park areas within the neighborhood. Stonehenge Avenue, Rialto Street, and Druid Avenue circle Belmont's 3.1 acres, which were another gift from Paul Goodloe McIntire. The park offers a full basketball court, playground, children’s spray ground (in-season), and large shady trees that provide protection for outdoor concerts.
Fifeville Park: A basketball court, shelter, and brand-new playground for preschool children are inside Fifeville's fenced-in .66 acre park at Grove, Spring, and King streets.
Greenbrier Park: This city refuge contains 28.3 acres along Meadow Creek. Greenbrier features mature forest and a marsh (one of just two natural marshes in the Virginia Piedmont region) along with trails and a major portion of the Rivanna Trails Foundation trail loop.
Greenleaf Park: One of the best city parks to take younger children, visitors enjoy a playground area, a new children’s spray ground, a picnic shelter with restrooms, and a half basketball court. Once part of McIntire Park before the U.S. 250 Bypass was built, Greenleaf's 14 acres of grassy hillside include hardwood and evergreen trees.
Jackson Park: The park's main attraction is the large equestrian monument of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson created by Charles Keck, who played a vital role in the entire development of Jackson Park. The statue ranks among the three best equestrian statues in the world, but the relevance of a Confederate war hero memorial in a public park was recently questioned. The park's well-maintained flower beds on .4 acre provide a soothing respite for those facing the legal system at the nearby Albemarle County Courthouse. Jackson is part of the Virginia Civil War Trails and the park hosts the Jefferson Thanksgiving Festival with Revolutionary era re-enactments and displays. At Court Square between Jefferson and High streets.
Jordan Park: On just over three acres at the south end of 6th Street SE, the park borders Moores Creek and the Rivanna Trail passes through it. Facilities including a basketball court, playground, grill, and picnic tables.
Lee Park: This downtown Market Street park has recovered from the ravages of Occupy Charlottesville, which turned it into a tent city two years ago. The dominant equestrian statue of another Civil War hero, Robert E. Lee, was first conceived by Henry M. Shrady and later finished by Leo Lentelli as another gift from Paul McIntire in 1924, three years after the Jackson monument. Just over an acre of city-block park land offers a comfortable setting with benches, checkers and chess set tables, and seasonal gardens. Lee is between 1st and 2nd streets NE.
McGuffey Park: On a little over an acre of land, McGuffey sits on its own hill beside the Art Center with the same name at 2nd St. NW and Jefferson Street. The park was completely renovated in 2007 and features a playground, plentiful benches, fountain, and basketball hoop with round, concrete "bouncing area."
Northeast Park: The park offers a full basketball court, playground facilities and picnic areas, as well as a footbridge to Marshall Street. Just shy of five acres of land, it's at the corner of Sheridan Avenue. and Calhoun Street.
Rives Park: Here visitors enjoy a view of Carter Mountain along with access to a half basketball court, a shelter with four picnic tables, and playground equipment. The neighborhood park offers over four acres of flat open space not far from Quarry Park. A completed Master Plan for Rives Park can be found on the city’s web site
Starr Hill Park: The park provides nearly half an acre of comforting open field. Starr Hill is at the corner of 7th NW and Elsom streets.
City Parks Rules & Regulations
City Code requires owners to keep their dogs leashed at all times in city parks. Owners must also clean up the feces of dogs in their care. Failure to abide by these laws is a Class Four misdemeanor. Owners are, however, provided with specific fenced-in areas at some parks— Azalea— or leash-less Tuesdays-Thursdays at Riverview where dogs can roam. Picnic shelters (other than McIntire & Pen Park) are available on a first-come first-served basis.
County Parks Rules & Regulations
All parks that offer fishing require fisherman to hold a Virginia State Fishing License. All lakes offer abundant sunfish, channel catfish, and large-mouth bass. Fishing parks (Chris Greene Lake, Mint Springs, Beaver, Totier and Walnut creeks) normally open at 7am (6am during peak fishing seasons). Parks permitting swimming are open 11am-7pm Memorial Day to Labor Day. Swimming is prohibited if lifeguards are not on duty. A park user fee is also charged during the swim season. Parks providing canoe rental do so for an hourly rate of $5. Picnic shelters are available for reservation at numerous parks for $55. U.S. Coast Guard-approved boats and crafts are welcome at the lakes; however, gasoline and fuel oil-powered motors are prohibited. Hunting is strictly prohibited in all county parks.