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Trail length doubles at 'no excuses park'

Donors sang ‘Happy Trails’ as they dedicated a doubling of the path length at the Park at Flat Rock to 2.8 miles. Donors sang ‘Happy Trails’ as they dedicated a doubling of the path length at the Park at Flat Rock to 2.8 miles.

FLAT ROCK — The Park at Flat Rock, said Mayor Bob Staton, is one more attraction that makes the village special.

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“We say we have two jewels in Flat Rock,” the mayor, standing in the handsome post-and-beam pavilion named for him, said Saturday afternoon during a dedication of a new paved string of trails. “We have the Flat Rock Playhouse, which is the State Theatre of North Carolina, and the Carl Sandburg Home national park and the third jewel is this park. Some people say the fourth jewel is Hubba Hubba Smokehouse.”
About 90 people enjoyed a Hubba Hubba feast, heard praise for the park and the volunteers and donors who make it possible and posed in front of the newest sign, which honors a major donor and the fellow Trailblazers who matched the grant he made.
Since it started work in 2014, the Flat Rock Park and Recreation Foundation has raised $1.2 million for the park, which the Village Council created when it bought the Highland Lake Golf Club in 2013. Improvements include the welcome center and community room, Bryan Playground, the Robert V. Staton Pavilion, Quiet Place and the Maybank Rhett Nature Center. Next up are the tot lot, a toddler playground, and a “front porch shelter” between the two playgrounds.
The Park at Flat Rock, said Foundation member Marcia Caserio, is a tool for quality aging.
“Why do I love the park? A lot of you know I have had quite a health history,” she said. A breast cancer survivor since 2011, Caserio during the fight for her life “became a lot more conscious of my need to walk — and walk and walk. With a background in quality aging, I know that this park is the secret to longevity for us and it’s not just any longevity, it’s quality longevity. The beauty of this park is it’s flat. It’s a no excuses park.”
The Park at Flat Rock, said financial adviser Ryan Harmon, is better still because of the generosity of Richard E. “Dick” Eppler, whose gift of $220,000 helped fund the trail expansion and other park improvements.
“He set high standards and, fair or not, he believed everybody could do better and should strive to do better,” Harmon said. “What he tried to do with the park, he really set a challenge, a challenge to the park and to the community to do something that they would be proud of.”
The Park at Flat Rock, with its paved trails, is now accessible to all because supporters realized “we need to ensure that everybody can enjoy what we have here,” said Dennis Flanagan, another foundation member.
The Park at Flat Rock is even accessible to the sometimes hard to herd.
“There’s accessibility and there’s autism accessibility,” said Caroline Long, the St. Gerard House founder who an exercise option in the 67 acres of green space for her two teenagers with autism, 16 and 17. “Kids with autism tend to bolt, they run off.” When her kids were smaller, “a park was a nightmare because something can set them off and they’re gone. I’ve lived in Flat Rock for 24 years and I’ve been to every single park or place you can take your kids to and this is the best by far.”
The Park at Flat Rock is the result of the vision of the Flat Rock Village Council, the generosity of donors, the imagination of designers like the late Ed Lastein and (volunteer) Steve Jamerson and the tireless work of volunteers. And it just got better, by a mile and a half.

SHIRTTAIL
Named features associated with the trails include Eppler Overlook, Linda Fitzpatrick Trail (Jim and Linda Fitzpatrick), Highland Lake Neighborhood Trail, Payne Fund Trail (Tim and Mary Bolton), Leisching-Taylor-DeBuvitz Trail (Louaine Leisching), TDBank Trail, The Happy Trail (Dave Keierleber), Barber Bypass and Dan and Nan’s Trail (Dan and Nancy Barber), Sweetheart Trail (Christine Hicks), McCann Family Trail (Rosemary and Norm McCann), Pardee Healthy Reed (Johnna Reed, Pardee UNC Health Care), Abby Bridger Trail (Kendall and Grace and Henry Bryan, for Eleanor and Kendall Bryan), Thomas Loop and Inspiration Point (Nancy and Tom Hester), Gough Nature Trail (Dennis and Ida Gough), Reflective Pond and benches (Dennis and Victoria Flanagan).

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