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A CENTENNIAL PLAN FOR RESTORING PEABODY PARK (1901–2001)

Presented to the Faculty Senate Forum, 24 March 1999

Dr. Robert J. O’Hara, Department of Biology (rjohara@uncg.edu)
Dr. John R. Jezorek, Department of Chemistry (jjezorek@uncg.edu)

An accompanying map appears at the end of this document.

Park website in the Biology Department

PEABODY PARK, UNCG’s educational park, was established in 1901 by President McIver with a gift from the philanthropist George Foster Peabody. “One hundred and thirty acres are ours to roam over at will; seventy acres of it in virgin forest where we may become acquainted with the templed groves of noble trees—the spreading beech, the fringed pines, the stately poplar, and oaks of various kinds” (Prof. Melville Fort, 1902). George Foster Peabody was one of the most famous educational philanthropists of the turn of the century, and is still remembered at many institutions across the country, including the University of Georgia which annually presents the Peabody Awards for excellence in journalism. Peabody Park on our campus will celebrate its centennial in 2001, two years from now.

Peabody Park is of enormous educational value, on a par with the Weatherspoon Art Gallery and the Jackson Library. It contains a fragment of the native oak-hickory forest that once covered this entire region, as well as a large tract of typically disturbed agricultural habitat. An ongoing biological survey of the Park has documented more than 300 species of native and introduced animals and plants. In spite of its great educational value, however, the University has exercised poor stewardship over the Park for many years. We propose a restoration and rededication of Peabody Park for its centennial in 2001, to prepare it for another century of service to the University. The ideas presented here will strengthen the educational environment of the University, reduce maintenance costs, save taxes, improve appearance, promote student and alumni loyalty, link the University to the local neighborhood, generate much favorable publicity, and make Peabody Park the jewel in our University’s crown that Charles Duncan McIver envisioned a century ago.

The components of this Centennial Plan are outlined below and are shown on the accompanying map.

Dees Lane and Links to the Greensboro Park System

E.J. Forney predicted more than 80 years ago that someday the University would construct “Dees Lane,” a walkway “more beautiful than anything now existing,” in honor of Kitty Dees, the student who developed the first landscaping plans for the University. We should make Forney’s prediction come true by establishing Dees Lane today, a walkway through the Park that would encourage pedestrian traffic along a specific route, and at the same time would protect other areas of the Park from excessive pedestrian traffic. Dees Lane should link Peabody Park to Lake Daniel Park just 100 yards to the north, a major greenbelt of the Greensboro park system, and also to College Park just 50 yards to the west. Signs and green crosswalks spanning Aycock and Market/Friendly would formalize these connections. This would be an highly valuable environmental and public relations bond with the City and would truly “link UNCG to the Piedmont Triad.”

Centennial Garden and Amphitheater Restoration

Did you know UNCG has a magnificent outdoor amphitheater that could easily seat 1000 people? It was built in 1941 and stands today in Peabody Park nearly forgotten. UNCG has outstanding music and theater departments, but most people in those departments don’t even know the amphitheater exists. Student volunteers have recently cleaned up the beautiful stone steps that lead to the stage, and a concert could be held there tomorrow.

The open fields along the streams at the base of the amphitheater, no longer being maintained as part of the golf course, should be made into a beautiful country garden dedicated in honor of the centennial of Peabody Park. McIver’s original plan for the Park in 1901 called for engraved stone benches commemorating famous North Carolina educators. Let us carry out his plan a century after it was first proposed. It would be hard to imagine anything that would be easier to raise funds for or that would create more pride in our campus.

Restoration of Natural Areas

The woods and fields of Peabody Park have been an outdoor science classroom for one hundred years. And yet this classroom is disrupted by traffic, dumping, careless maintenance, and general disregard for the educational uses to which the Park is put. Some work has been done this past year replanting trees in areas of the Park damaged by construction, and groups of student volunteers have begun clearing out exotic plants that are choking out native species. This work needs to be continued and extended by replanting unnecessary roads, leaving native shrubs and wildflowers undisturbed, leaving dead trees in place, etc. Many damaged areas will repair themselves if simply left alone.

Stream Restoration

The Park’s streams are of great educational value to students and faculty in environmental sciences. In addition, they are headwaters of the Cape Fear watershed and we have a civic obligation to keep them as clean and unpolluted as possible. Fertilizer runoff from the new athletic fields will significantly increase the water pollution in these streams. Creation of a small water-quality pond would return large savings on our city taxes, would provide an outstanding tool for environmental education, and would demonstrate that the University is a responsible environmental citizen.

Screening Off Traffic

The educational and recreational experience of students and other visitors to the Park will be markedly enhanced by screening off traffic with a low hedge along Aycock and Market Streets. The educational environment of our students should be put first; the entertainment of Market Street commuters second. Required fire roads in the Park should be closed off with chains (the Greensboro Fire Marshal has no objection to this) and other roads should be dug up and replanted.

Centennial Plan Map

[Restoration Plan for Peabody Park]

Map showing proposed restoration plan for Peabody Park, March 1999. (View the map image alone for better printing.)


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