The effort to turn the campus at Dorothea Dix into a regional, Destination Park has been in the works for years, nearly a decade. The campus overlooks downtown Raleigh and surrounding areas, and is surrounded by 306 acres of historic buildings, trails, and green space – a perfect venue to create Raleigh’s Central Park.
|View from Dix Hill on the Campus|
Destination Parks can quickly be defined as large parks that attract significant tourism to an area. Think Central Park in NYC, Forest Park in St. Louis, Hyde Park in London, Savannah's Forsyth Park,etc. The impact of parks like these can be seen from development around the park’s periphery, dollars from visiting tourists, to simply providing a place of relaxation or somewhere to exercise.
In 2003, the NC General Assembly voted to relocate the mentally ill services located at Dix, to Butner, NC. The move was made in large part to upgrade the quality of care mentally ill patients would receive, since Dix was built about 150 years ago, and the new facility would simply have new technology and more upgrades.
With news of Dix Campus’ eventual closing, the rush to use up the campus began. There were plenty of mixed-use facilities, shopping mall, office park…proposals, but one stuck, and one went the distance.
Led by small but highly-committed citizen groups – Dix Visionaries, Dix 306, and Friends of Dorothea Dix – each team shared the same vision of preserving the entire campus, and with it, creating Raleigh’s own Central Park.
Led by Dix Visionaries and its chairman, Greg Poole Jr., the groups spent years meeting with the Governor, North Carolina’s Council of State members, leaders at the General Assembly, city officials, and business leaders throughout the Southeast. Almost everyone – across both parties – agreed that turning this tract of land into a Destination Park when the hospital and offices there closed, was the best idea. Even the land developers changed their minds from building on the 306 acres, to wanting to build around it (knowing this would be more valuable).
After a decade of meetings, hemming and hawing, ‘needing more studies,’ and so on, the goal seemed close at hand with Governor Perdue recently putting the issue on the Council of State’s agenda. Lame duck move / wanting to build a legacy at the n’th hour? Sure. But since we live in an era where one side can’t let the other ‘win’ with a good idea, the effort is wavering.
That a political party committed to letting the private sector loose, would block a move led by private citizens that could bring in untold millions in the form of donations, development, and tourism is ironic. That these same people have sat and told us to our face they are with us, only to find now they aren’t – is just plain crap.
Do something. Visit www.dixlegacypark.com and find out more. Contact our Council of State members from there, or even donate a dollar to the cause.
What do you think Raleigh’s Central Park could be? Make it happen.