Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space has expanded its “Everyone’s Welcome” initiative to offer more opportunities to make visitors of all abilities feel comfortable and included.
Everyone’s Welcome is an extension of the division’s mission – to preserve open space, promote stewardship and provide equitable and inclusive education and outdoor recreation for a diverse and growing community. Wake County first rolled out the program as a pilot in 2019 with the creation of autism-friendly programming at Historic Oak View County Park. Since then, park staff have worked to create a complete portfolio of programs that make parks and preserves more accessible to new and broader populations.
“We want everyone to be able to truly enjoy our amazing parks and preserves,” said Sig Hutchinson, chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “The Everyone’s Welcome program provides a wide range of activities for all visitors, and park staff are constantly looking for ways to expand the program in the future.”
Some examples of the initiative include:
- Mobile tours: These tours, which can be accessed from your computer or mobile device, allow visitors with hearing difficulties to read a self-guided tour of the park. There’s also an audio tour function for people with vision difficulties. View them at wakegov.com/parks/mobiletours.
- My Park Pack: Designed for visitors on the autism spectrum, park packs include customizable visual schedules, sensory-seeking toys, noise canceling headphones and suggestions for a successful park visit.
- Visual schedules: Download and print these schedules that include a make-your-own visual checklist with location and communication cards to prepare for and plan your visit. They’re currently available at Blue Jay Point, Crowder, Green Hills, Harris Lake, Historic Oak View and Historic Yates Mill county parks, as well as Robertson Millpond, Sandy Pines and Turnipseed nature preserves.
- Social narratives: Crowder and Historic Oak View county parks offer social narratives for the monthly StoryWalk programs, and Harris Lake, Historic Oak View and Historic Yates Mill county parks provide social narratives for a successful visit. Visitors can print out these narratives, so they’ll know exactly what to expect from the time they park their car to the moment they finish exploring the park.
- Birdability: Through education, outreach and advocacy, Birdability works to ensure the birding community and the outdoors are welcoming, inclusive, safe and accessible for everybody. Blue Jay Point, Green Hills, Lake Crabtree, Robertson Millpond, Sandy Pines and Turnipseed are Birdability-accessible locations. In addition, Lake Crabtree offers guided Birdability programming – the next event is on Saturday, Feb. 19.
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Historic Oak View has debuted several new programs and tours that feature a comprehensive and conscientious interpretation of the history of enslavement. The virtual program, "In the Farm's Kitchen," features the story of Eliza Hutchings, an enslaved woman on the plantation, and how she built a life for herself after emancipation. Three new tours: "Artifact Adventure," "Plants with a Past" and "Plantation to Park" teach visitors of all ages about of the lives of all people, free and enslaved, landowner and landless, who lived and worked at Oak View before and after the Civil War.
- Facility accessibility: From trail surfaces to building entrances, park facilities are designed with everyone in mind. Lake Crabtree County Park features an ADA boat launch for easy access to the lake. The fishing pier and platform are wheelchair accessible, and Wake County partners with organizations like Bridge II Sports to help people use these features.
Learn more about what’s available at your favorite Wake County park or preserve here.