Elizabeth Holmes Hurley Park – Hurley Park for short – is a green oasis nestled at Annandale and Lake Drive in Salisbury, NC, just behind Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. This beautiful, 18-acre park offers walking trails sprawling with over 40 named gardens, woodlands, a pond, and streams. The park officially opened in 1988, but the idea for the park was formed a few years before. In 1984, the Salisbury City Council approved money from public and private interests to be used in the development of a master plan for the park. City staff and volunteers formed a committee to follow this plan. A generous donation in memory of Elizabeth Holmes Hurley from her husband, J.F. Hurley, and her sons, James Franklin III, Haden Holmes, and Gordon Pannill Hurley, was made due to Mrs. Holmes being an avid nature lover. She was also one of the first residents in the City Lake area. Due to the generosity of her family, the park was given the name Elizabeth Holmes Hurley Park. The Hurley family wanted a park that had natural beauty, and their donation allowed for special amenities and plantings around the park. With the help of private donations and a Land and Water Conservation grant, Hurley Park was made a reality.
Hurley Park wasn’t always this big, however. Donations of land over the years and work with the City of Salisbury have helped shaped the park that we know today. As I stated earlier, the park is home to over 40 named gardens. These gardens, many having a special theme, were all donated in memory of a loved one. These types of donations help assure the financial stability of the park above the regular maintenance costs. These gardens can be seen scattered along the walking trails, and offer gorgeous flowers, bushes, and trees for the plant and nature lover. These gardens are also important for pollinators within the city’s limits.
Web of Life
Danelle Cutting, Hurley Park’s Manager, told me she loved working with the native plants and pollinators when she was a Cooperative Extension agent with Rowan County. She says, “With many areas being taking up by urban encroachment and landscapes that are non-native, non-blooming, non-anything (some even being plastic, such as plastic mulch and astro-turf) it has been very difficult for pollinators to thrive.” She tells me that she loves seeing the “web of life” inside Hurley Park. “I think we have gotten so used to everything being perfect that we have failed to realize there is beauty in some of the destruction. Without caterpillars stripping the leaves on plants, you won’t have butterflies. Without having tiny holes in the ground, you won’t have the ground nesting bees who do a large portion of pollination. Without caterpillars eating plants, you won’t have birds feeding them to their babies.” I love Danelle’s attitude towards moving against the idea of perfect. “When you try to remove everything because you want to have the perfect plant, you lose out on so much,” she states.
Although the pond is currently being dredged, Danelle says the pond is one of her favorite features. The pond isn’t stocked by park staff, but it is teeming with life. She tells me she recently saw a water snake stalking its prey. Crawfish swim among the rocks. Unfortunately, the pond is having some issues. Due to damage from two hurricanes and a 500-year flood, the pond has filled up with some debris. Danelle says they took a boat and a pole out to the middle of the pond to check the depth, coming back with an average of four feet. The pond needs to be at least six to eight feet for the three-foot fountain to run. After the dredging is complete and all goes well, it shouldn’t need to be done for a few years. This is good news because only two people work in the park, Danelle and co-worker Mark Martin, so much of the cleanup from this project will fall on their shoulders.
Limited Staff Offering Unlimited Opportunity
The limited staff for such a big park is why volunteers are so important. Volunteers can assist with plantings, weeding gardens and flower beds, and events. Tasks range from easy to hard, depending upon the volunteer’s capabilities. Another way to volunteer is by joining the Hurley Park Board, which is typically a two to three year commitment. The board helps to guide and assist staff with the needs of the park. The Board members mainly act as the park’s advocates. Since the park only has two staff members, Danelle says she relies a lot on park regulars. These regulars are the eyes of the park and report any issues they come across. Volunteers help by spreading awareness of the park and through donations. Yes, donations. Money helps, even with nature. To donate to Hurley Park, visit here.
The last major event of the year is coming up on October 6 at 2:00 p.m. The Butterfly Release is a free event where people can purchase their own butterfly to release into the park. Last year, the park saw 500 attendees with 50 butterflies released. This year, they’ll release 50 that the park has purchased and an additional 100 that the public has purchased. The release will take place after an educational piece. The event is over quickly, so please arrive early as the event will start promptly at 2:00 p.m. Since they are expecting a large crowd again, this year’s event will take place at the Annex across from City Lake. The Annex is the section of the park that is square and surrounded by Lake Drive, Club Drive, Confederate Drive, and Annandale Drive. This area should provide good views of the release to the crowd.
Please find and follow Hurley Park on Facebook and Instagram or visit their website here for news, events, and updates. Thank you to Danelle Cutting for her help and information on Hurley Park. Now – go take a walk and smell the flowers!