Dorothea Dix Park celebrates 5th birthday with plans to expand, build play areas

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Raleigh's Dorothea Dix Park is turning 5 years old and is hitting its stride, launching plans to expand through a multi-million dollar investment for improvements to the park.

On July 24, 2015, the City of Raleigh inked a deal to buy the 308 acres from the State of North Carolina.

To celebrate the anniversary, the city unveiled the latest plans for the park on Friday.

The plans include an adventure play area designed for children, which has been dubbed the "Plaza Play project." The project will go in the section of the park off Lake Wheeler Road. Fountains and innovative play areas will be built right next to hundreds of acres of green space.

Project director Kate Pearce says they're just getting started.

"We're about to kick off the Plaza Play project which will be our first big project at Dix Park," Pearce said. "We're all impatient and anxious and we want it to happen. But we want to do it right so I think the next couple of years are going to make sure we're doing it right."

"People understood intellectually the value of this public green space in the heart of a city. But I think people are feeling it viscerally in a way none of us expected to," said Sean Malone, Dix Park Conservancy.

The project will take about four years to complete. But the planning process has already begun thanks to $10 million pledged by the Dix Park Conservancy. The city of Raleigh had to put their portion of the funding on hold for a year because of the pandemic.

Dorothea Dix Park is named after Dorothea Dix and the mental health facility she helped create in Raleigh in the 1850s. The land for Dorothea Dix Park includes the area where the Dorothea Dix Hospital operated for more than 100 years.

"We want to keep things moving forward and so a number of donors have already given and that put us in a position to do that. We'll still be raising more money," Malone said.

In the meantime, the park will be adding hammocks and benches to create new spaces for people to socially distance.

Dorothea Dix was an advocate for treatment and care of people who, at the time, were considered mentally ill. Her leadership helped create the first generation of mental care facilities in America.
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