Freedom Park, sometimes called Charlotte's Central Park, is a 98-acre park about three miles from downtown near the Dilworth and Myers Park neighborhoods. Locals know it for its soccer, baseball, and softball fields, tennis and volleyball courts, and playgrounds. The more chilled-out southern portion of the park is built around a seven-acre pond with a fountain, dedicated to veterans, and home to friendly ducks. It’s close to several other parks, and the Little Sugar Creek Greenway runs along one side of it, making it a great start or endpoint for a hike or bike-ride through several of Charlotte’s green spaces. Discovery Place Nature, a kid-focused nature and science center, is also adjacent to the park.
Near the central parking lot, there’s a train engine that’s about 100 years old. The coal-burning steam locomotive was built in Philadelphia in 1920 and was in service on the Florida coast for more than thirty years. It later expanded its route to Georgia and became known as the “The Gainesville-Midland 301.” It was retired in 1959, as diesel engines replaced steam engines, and donated to the city of Charlotte which installed it in Freedom Park for kids to climb on. At some point, this was determined to be a bad idea, as it is now mostly fenced-off. However, visitors can still step inside the conductor’s cockpit.
Kids can find a more up-to-date play experience in the park’s playgrounds, especially the “NFL Play 60 KidZone.” Donated by the Carolina Panthers in 2013, it features a race track and obstacles similar to the ones used by football players to train.
Not long ago, Freedom Park had started to decline in popularity because, like many other large grassy areas in the state, it was overrun with Canada Geese. As the name suggests, these grazing birds are native to Canada and the northern US and previously only migrated to southern states in winter. In recent years, due to rising temperatures, their year-round populations have exploded in cities further to the south. They are adept at surviving in urban areas, but their droppings leave a mess that can be expensive to clean up, and they are territorial and sometimes aggressive towards humans. But cities and property-owners have found a humane and very effective solution. As the website of local family-run business “Goosebusters” explains:
Cover photo: Mecklenburg County.