Some time ago, if you were traveling along the bypass in Nags Head, you would have passed Dowdy’s Amusement Park. It was a small family-run park that included a ferris wheel, bumper cars, a wooden roller coaster, and arcade, the perfect place to take the kids for an hour or two in the evening. Over time, as some of the rides aged, maintenance became a problem and by the time it closed in 2005, the park had lost a bit of its luster.
The Town of Nags Head purchased the property in 2014 and there was a considerable debate about what to do with property. It was finally decided that Dowdy’s Amusement Park was going to be Dowdy Park, a multi-use playground, fitness, entertainment and picnic area, as well as a gathering place for musicians.
The grand opening was held in May, and it’s possible that the end result exceeded expectations.
The playground area is innovative with some very interesting things for kids to do.
There’s a roller slide—similar to a a playground slide, but replacing what is usually metal or plastic are rollers, so kids slide across the rollers to the ground. There are more conventional slides, jungle gyms, and swings as well.
The Park is much more than a playground, though, and this may be what really sets it apart. The site occupies five acres, which allowed designers to get creative.
There is a multi-use fitness path that winds its way through the grounds. The path divides the children’s playground from the grassy common areas in the middle of the park.
Those common areas are large enough to allow kids—or adults— to play catch, frisbee, kick a soccer ball around or enjoy any number of activities.
On the east end of the park there is a performance stage, which will host live music.
Along the perimeter there are pavilions with picnic tables suppled with grills, as well as additional tables outside the covered area.
These tables offer an innovative concept – they are embedded chess or checker boards. It reminds me of NYC, where it seems almost every park has a chess game in progress. We’ll keep our eye on this see if an Outer Banks Chess Champion is taking shape.
Work still remains to be done at the site, mostly around the edges. Plans call for rain and butterfly gardens and a landscaped area. A multi-use court for basketball and handball are still being installed as well as a bocce ball lawn.
A number of grants helped Nags Head keep costs in line while fashioning a truly unique space. Trillium Health Resources was particularly generous with a $750,000 grant; a $250,000 grant from the Dare County Tourism Board was also instrumental in brining the park to life, as well as funding from the Outer Banks Community Foundation.