Price Park & its Boundaries

Kay Edward’s statement for Price Park

Price Park is a public park, which was founded officially in 1999 by a generous donation to the Piedmont Land Conservancy from philanthropist Kay Edwards. Almost immediately, stream reconstruction was beginning, and things like bird and butterfly meadows were put in to try and fix some of the damage that humans had done to the land over years of disregard.

While all of these efforts to “fix” some of the things that went wrong are certainly better than nothing, I wonder to what extent these restoration attempts are helpful — and, more importantly, for how long.

Price Park is a 98 acre spot where humans and animals are meant to co-exist peacefully, but what about what is around the park? There is no land conservancy stopping people from continuing to develop things like New Garden Shopping Center, the busy bordering roads, or Jefferson Woods, a neighborhood packed full of mansions (lying just behind Price Park, opposite New Garden Road). So, in other words, how long lived will Price Park be, with this seemingly never-ending flow of development? How long will the conservationist efforts and large sums of money have the ability to make a difference, and how long will people actually care? They are daunting questions to ask, but every time I go to Price Park — a public space — and walk to the back, where there is a small human-made lake, and see the towering mansions of Jefferson Woods staring me down, questions like these flood my mind.

The mansions behind Price Park — I wonder how effective that fence is at keeping people out?

I know that Price Park has no control over what goes up around it, but I wish it did. Or even just that people bordering the park would care enough to make active efforts not to deplete the 98 acres of natural habitat next to them. Hopefully I am not wishing something that is unachievable, but at the rate things are going now, I am afraid that I am.

Personal Reflections Within a Space

Satellite image of the path I take to get from Guilford College to Price Park (highlighted in pink)

To get to Price Park, I typically walk through the Guilford College woods, a small neighborhood outside of these woods, and then into the pine forest of Price Park. I choose this walk, rather than driving from my apartment to the park, for a number of reasons. For one, I love the Guilford woods, and enjoy taking advantage of every opportunity I have to visit them, as almost every time I see groups of white-tailed deer, who always surprise me by how unafraid they are to approach me. Another reason is that every time I take this walk, with Price Park as my destination, the amount of time it takes to get to the park seems shorter and shorter. I’m not sure why this is — maybe my muscles have gotten used to the curves of the path, and even walking, or maybe time just goes by faster as I get increasingly comfortable within and aware of the space around me. Finally, and most importantly to me, it is because each time I arrive at the park, through an opening in a fence which takes me to the back edge (opposite Hobbs Road) of the space, I am able to choose between four different trails, which often each take me on a new route.

As I have said in a previous post, one of the things I love so much about Price Park, is that, despite it only being 98 acres in size, I never fail to discover something new about it. There are many paths, some manicured and meant to be there, and some less-often traveled, made by those who choose to stray from the trails. With this plethora of walking options, I am able to switch it up just about every time I go there — making it a never tiring, always exciting, new walk. One of my favorite things is to go off the purposeful trails — one can wander through the dry woods for what seems like forever, walking around fallen trees and between living ones which spurt almost no growth at human-height, and become unaware of the other people also at the park (as people don’t often go off the trail). However, if you walk long enough, you always get spit back out to a commonly-populated area. As I continue to visit the park I become increasingly familiar with where certain trees, posts, trails, etc. are located, and no matter how far I feel like I have strayed within the newly discovered (by me) territories, once I am released to the developed areas, I know exactly where I am and where I have been, and am able to find my way back home.

Price Park is perhaps the only space that I have grown so familiar with, and it is a wonderful feeling. It is strange though, that despite all the time I have spent outdoors throughout my life, I have never felt so close to a single space as I do with Price Park — a place that I have only been visiting regularly for a short amount of time. I know that this is only because of this assignment and this class, American Nature Writing, but it is a feeling and an experience that I don’t want to lose. At the same time, it is both odd and exciting to know that no matter how much I think I know about the space, what inhabits it, where things are, etc., there is an infinite amount left for me to discover. I have a feeling that no matter how many times I revisit, re-research, and re-experience Price Park, I will always have the urge to return and do it all again.

Jefferson Pilot Clubhouse & Destruction of a Natural Space

Inside of Jefferson Pilot Clubhouse – Sept. 15, 1946

In 1928, still before Price Park was “Price Park”, a chunk of the mature pine forest was torn down. In its place, a building called the Jefferson Pilot Clubhouse was put up. This structure served as a retreat space (hence the name clubhouse) for the employees of the Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company. Given the time, post Industrial Revolution, it is not surprising that such a mass of natural land was destroyed for the sake of humans. Per modern human tradition, people wanted a space “within the natural world” to retreat, get closer to one another, etc. Of course, they were not actually retreating within the natural world, but rather next to it. They could see it, but not experience it.

Unlike any of the previous human history known about Price Park, these people were not encountering the land in any way, shape, or form. They would likely drive to the space in their cars, go into the building, maybe walk around in the forests every now in then, but ultimately always return to the clubhouse, or their cars, or some other human constructed space. It is a strange thing to think about wanting to retreat in nature, yet at such a distance that you cannot learn about it or experience it. From within a building you are purposely distancing yourself from everything I would associate with the best parts of the natural world. I doubt these retreaters could hear many birdsongs from behind walls, or see much wildlife beyond the windows. They may have had a general knowledge of which trees were which, what flowers were what, and what animal or bird species they may or may not have seen, but I wonder how far this knowledge extended.

For employees of a life insurance company, I am curious to know how their knowledge of the natural world’s life compared to that of human life. Modern medicine had been far advanced since the times of the Revolutionary War and the Underground Railroad, meaning an understanding of medicinal plants was more just a hobby than pertinent information. The ability to get in a car, turn the key, and leave in case of an emergency also shuts down this desire to learn. Of course modern medicine is a good thing, and quick transportation is convenient, but at what cost? Price Park is such a beautiful space of land, with so much complex life within it, that it seems a shame to dismiss it or demean it to a “retreat” — a word that implies connecting with humans and not with the natural world.

The choice to put their building in place of a pine forest goes to show how careless they were. Of course it would have been peaceful to have a manicured space away from constant traffic and other development, but did these people stop to think about the fact that they created what they were trying to escape (a growing industrialized area)? It seems that those who work together likely know enough about each other to not have to go to the clubhouse to mingle — why not have a dinner party or an office gathering every now and then, in a space that has already been built, rather than going through all the time and money to tear down a beautiful and historical chunk of forestry? Why not go to the forest and mingle with the natural elements, rather than with people you see at least five out of the seven days a week.

It is frustrating to me that such a nice space of land was tarnished and destroyed for such a trivial structure. What habitats were destroyed in the process, and what respects were paid to make up for this? Probably many, and none. While it is frustrating, however, it is not in the least surprising. If this hadn’t happened in 1928, it would be sure to have happened later on, given that the land was unprotected and ultimately fair game.

Contrasting Historical Experiences

One of the many heavily forested sections within Price Park

Around sixty years after the Revolutionary War soldiers marched through Price Park, slaves fleeing from bondage used the land for refuge, as it was a part of the Underground Railroad. While I am again, only drawing conclusions based on what I know about history, I believe that the relationship with the land that these slaves would have found was much more meaningful than that of the American soldiers in 1781. Given this, comparing the two based on somewhat informed imagination is very interesting to me.

Rather than chopping trees or treading heavily on grasslands, these people would have been very appreciative and aware of the nature around them. The trees within the forestry, such as American beech, red maple, and the tulip tree, would have been places to hide behind, being naturally rather large. Their age and therefore usefulness would have been estimated by the size of their circumference. While not necessarily completely aware of the land beneath their feet and what inhabits it, I would imagine that these people were not stamping into it, but rather walking lightly, an attempt at making as little noise as possible. In addition, the fact that Price Park’s landscape is specific to the southern region, and slaves at the time were largely in this same region, there was an intense familiarity with the land. While the connotations of this are certainly not positive ones, as it was forced and violent labor, this relationship with the land they inhabited was undoubtedly a strong one, full of knowledge and awareness.

There was nobody immediately available to help or heal in the case of wounds, as soldiers would have had in the form of war hospitals. Because of this, escaping slaves would have had to know which plants or natural life would aid them in case of injury or sickness. For instance, the bark of a white oak growing in Price Park would soothe as sickened stomach, the juices of the nettle leaf or the tick trefoil herb would stop the stinging of an open wound. These are the skills which come with knowing ones land on a deeper level — of appreciating what resources are available.

Similarly to the soldiers of the Revolutionary War, there was likely not a sense of peace within the forestry of Price Park. It was certainly very scary, far beyond my imagination. Yet at the same time, there was probably a sense of hope, with the knowledge that one was on the way to freedom, and ultimately a better life. I wonder how every sound, like the call of a Chimney Sweep, or the creaking of the treetops, would have an effect. Was this ever present awareness of surroundings a source of fear? Likely, but at the same time it was a source of life. One likely had to know which sound was associated with what, so that a foreign sound (a human would have been a foreign sound in that relatively untouched land), would sound like a warning signal.

Ultimately, this connection with the land provided solace. While a scary task to venture out on, these people at least had their knowledge to rely on as a sense of comfort — something that not many can or could have said for themselves.

Price Park and the Revolutionary War

This is the general path the soldiers would have walked upon.

On March 15th, 1781 — almost exactly 238 years ago, American Revolutionary War soldiers marched through Guilford County, heading towards what is now the land of Battleground Courthouse. On their way there, however, they not only marched through the Guilford College woods, but through the adjacent forests of what is now Price Park.

Not a whole lot is known about what exactly these soldiers did while on the specific land of Price Park. While this leaves a lot to the imagination, I think through a general knowledge of history and the Revolutionary War, some interesting and reasonable conclusions can be drawn.

I do not believe it is extremely likely that these soldiers were stopping to admire the beauty of the land around them. They were on their way to battle, and ultimately death for many. For this reason I don’t particularly criticize them for forgetting the natural world, but to me it is strange to imagine being in a state of mind which so much hinders the human’s experience within the natural world.

The word “march”, to me, implies something much more violent and destructive than “walk”. Interestingly, this is the world that has been used in history to describe this March 15th event. With this in mind, it makes me wonder, did these soldiers contemplate if, or what, organic matter suffered beneath the stamping uniform boots? These grasslands are just one, relatively minute example of things that may have suffered in the soldiers’ wake. I wonder how much dry wood was chopped, how many trees were killed, to produce fire and warmth given the season.

I also wonder if they set up camp at Price Park, or just marched through, barely observing or experiencing anything other than anticipation and somewhat self absorbed thoughts. If they did set up camp — what was their experience of the land? Would they have been able to take in its qualities in the dark? Did they know which plants could be eaten, and which would cause sickness or even death?

Clearly, many questions come to mind when I think about these American soldiers within Price Park years ago. It is strange for me to imagine what the land may have looked like, not to mention how one could just march straight through it so authoritatively — without much curiosity or desire to learn more. I wonder if any of these soldiers ever returned to Price Park, and if so what memories it brought up. Likely any memories it would have evoked would not be pleasant ones, as they were on their way to battle. In that respect, there are lots of things beyond my imagination or knowledge.

In all, the soldier’s experience at Price Park was in all likelihood very different from my own. When I go to the park, it is a destination for me. While there I am able to find some sort of peacefulness, and my goal is to learn more about its natural elements, what they are and what they can be used for, the animals who inhabit it, and even the human history, like that of these Revolutionary War soldiers.

I doubt the soldiers were able to find peace upon the grasslands of Price Park, or amongst the Eastern Meadowlarks. I wouldn’t imagine they were too curious about the human history there either, and even more absurdly, about the healing properties of the Chinese lespedeza, which could aid the wounds they likely accumulated.

These people, in 1781, were willingly risking their lives to claim a land — a natural world — which, in reality, they paid little to no respect for during this march to battle.

Finding History at Price Park (Lots of Dead Ends)

Topographic map of P:rice Park from 2009

The responsibility of providing the history of a place can be a daunting one. Questions like where to begin, what to look for, how to look for it, and ultimately what is even important can often be very difficult ones to answer. In terms of the history of Price Park, I have come to many dead ends in terms of looking for its history, which, given the history I know about the Guilford woods and because of its proximity to Price Park, I am almost sure is a rich one. Regardless of my assumptions, however, every time I attempt to search the park on an online database, or on a map history database, etc., the farthest back I have been able to go is 1967, and not a whole lot about the layout of the park has changed since then. In addition, even the maps I have been able to find online as far back as that date would cost me upwards of $20 to screenshot or save, but I am hoping to be able to provide a hand drawn replica of one and much more history in upcoming blog posts than what is to come in this.

Having done lots of inconclusive research on Price Park, I ended up calling the Kathleen Clay Edwards Public Library Branch, which is in the center of the park. I asked some questions about the park’s history, and my initial assumptions were confirmed. Like Guilford’s campus, and the woods at Guilford, a lot of the known history of Price Park regards its usage as park of the Underground Railroad, as well as it being the territory for the Revolutionary War in the mid 1800s. Aside from Guilford woods related history, all they could tell me was that the library (before its opening in the early 2000s), was a life insurance agency, which originally opened in the 1950s. This life insurance agency, because of its longevity on the park and its responsibility for allowing the library to take its place, insisted that if a library were to open there, the Kathleen Clay Edwards Branch could not make any significant architectural changes that would stray from the original footprint of the life insurance agency. I’m not sure why this is, but the person working at the library who told me this chuckled and said it was very strange. Finally, I was redirected to the information and archives desk at the downtown library branch, which supposedly has a plethora of information about Price Park’s history before it was Price Park. Therefore, I am ultimately hopeful about finding out much more worthwhile human history of the land.

On a separate note, while human history is certainly interesting, I feel as though the natural history of the land is equally as important. I am hoping to be able to find maps of the park that date further back than the late 60’s so I can compare and contrast the two, and ultimately learn how much humans have affected the natural layout of the land. While I know about how the trees there have progressed over time, and that many of them have been there for over a hundred years, I am curious to know how much more forestry may or may not have been there, as well as waterways, etc. I look forward to talking to the people at the downtown library and finding out what I can about this park that I have grown to love in its current state.

Price Park & Wildlife

Night visit to Price Park

This image is from my fourth, but first “official” visit to Price Park, on January 30th, 2019. Although it was dark and getting darker, this was the first time that I walked extensively on the park’s trails, which begin (from where I was) directly in front of where this picture was taken. Through my walking and with the aid of a flashlight, I was able to read many of the helpful signs up along the trails which inform people of things like wildlife, history, plants, and trees at Price Park.

The particular area of the trail that I walked this day is a pine forest, which grows in succession from a bare field, then grassland, then grass shrub, and finally pine forest, after around 25 to 100 years of full growth. Since Price Park has more mature growth in other areas, such as an oak-hickory forest, which matures after 150 years of growth, I am assuming that this pine forest is in its later years of development, approximately 60-100 years old. The most common pine trees in this pine forest are Virginia Pine, which has short needles and small cones, each less than three inches, and Loblolly Pine, which has long needles and large cones, which maximize respectively at 9 and 6 inches. You can somewhat see in this picture what differentiates the rest of the tress from the pines, as the trees with no growth on them are not pines. I believe that from where I am standing, the oak-hickory and the pine forests are at an intersection.

Within this pine forest, as stated by a sign on the trail, are sharp-shinned hawks, raccoons (which I saw swimming in the creek on my first short visit to Price Park), gray foxes (I have seen these in the Guilford Woods, which due to the adjacency between the two spaces I am assuming have quite a bit in common), eastern box turtles, and opossums.

As I continued further down the trail, closer to where this photo was taken, I encountered another very informative sign, which confirmed my assumption that the reason for the mix of pine trees and bare trees was because I was in a Piedmont mixed forest. This means that this particular section of forestry is in transition between a pine forest and an oak-hickory forest. While most of the leaves were not on the trees at this time (and still aren’t), the most common species in this Piedmont mixed forest are tulip-tree, sweet-gum, Virginia pine, American beech, American hornbeam, and flowering dogwood. Like the pine forest, this area is rich in wildlife, and as it is more mature, there are many more forest creatures that live within it. Gray squirrels are common amongst trees that produce nuts (acorns, hickory, walnuts), as this is their primary source of food. Polyphemus moths are also present, because “in its first nine weeks of life the larva…eats 86,000 times its birth weight in oak, hickory or other leaves (sourced from a sign at Price Park)”. Chipmunks eat hazelnut shrub’s nuts, deer mice live inside of many of the trees’ small holes, cottontail rabbits live beneath fallen needs and brush, and American robins eat fruit that grows off of black cherry trees.

Of all of these 11 animals listed, I think I have only seen three at Price Park (raccoons, gray squirrels, and robins). Since it is still cold out, I am hopeful that as the weather gets warmer more of these animals will start to come out, and I am very much looking forward to my future animal encounters at Price Park.

Price Park – Personal Experiences

Map of Price Park

Price Park is located very near Guilford College, off of New Garden Road, Hobbs Road, and Jefferson Road. Its official address is 1420 Price Park Drive. The first time I went to Price Park was in the fall of 2016, when I was a first year at Guilford. I knew essentially nothing about the park at the time, and I honestly don’t remember what drew me there to begin with. I stayed for maybe thirty minutes as I walked up and down what I thought was the only path there, and I left disappointed in how small I thought the space was.

I was never inclined to return to the park until this past summer (2018), when the Kathleen Clay Edwards Library was the only branch in Greensboro that held The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest. The library (pictured in the bottom right hand corner of the map), lies further back on the park’s space, which I had initially accessed coming from New Garden, and after I got the book and headed back towards my car, I realized there are actually many paths near the library that are a part of Price Park (my first time there I thought the park ended where the library began, when in fact they are entwined). So, book in hand, I headed down a trail surrounded by forestry and found a bench to sit and read, as at the time I was more interested in beginning my book than exploring the park. When I left for the second time ever, though, I made a mental note to return and further explore what the space had to offer.

Alas, I didn’t return to Price Park (except once to go on a short walk) until the beginning of this semester, when I learned about this blogging assignment. I suppose I got too caught up with school and work that I completely forgot about my desire to get back to exploring Price Park. When I did return, though, I was with a friend who was as eager to explore as I was. With this newfound knowledge of what lay beyond the gazebo and butterfly garden (closest to New Garden and running along a creek, somewhat behind Jefferson Elementary), I set out on the trails. It was getting dark, so once more I was left wanting more to explore, but this time I at least walked for about and hour and was able to use a flashlight to read about the wildlife, plant life, and history within the park (more about that in a later post). However, once there was little to no light left I settled down on a bench and enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather.

Finally, I will get to the most recent and best experience I have had at Price Park. After multiple times returning with the same friend, I got increasingly more familiar with the space. So, when I had a friend come to visit, I took him to the park in my new favorite way of getting there. Rather than driving down New Garden Road, as I thought was the most accessible entrance point from where I live, I found that if I walk through the Guilford Woods (entering on the gated path, and taking a left, then a right) the trail spits straight into a neighborhood’s road, which leads straight to the depths of the woods at Price Park. From there, you can go straight on a trail, and choose a number of different paths which will all leave you walking for a good bit, until you decide to return to the heart of the park, which I consider to be the gazebo. On this particular walk I saw three female deer, an owl (near its owl box), and hoped to see bats, as there are three bat boxes in a field, but they were all empty. All in all, I feel as though every time I return to Price Park I explore something new, or discover another thing about what it has to offer, and that is a lot of what draws me to it every time. Respectfully, each experience I have had there has been better than the last, though most all of them have been good.

I imagine that my map will grow as my experiences at Price Park develop, and I continue to discover more parts of the space.