Agency is working with Cary, North Carolina, to update their Parks & Open Space Plan, which will create a roadmap to guide the growth of Cary’s open spaces, parks, greenways, and facilities for the next 10 years. Cary’s parks system has been recognized with the prestigious gold-medal award from the NRPA. This plan will identify how the park system can maintain high quality experiences, while also evolving to meet new needs.
Cary residents enjoy access to more than 90 miles of greenways and a diverse network of parks and sports, cultural arts, and recreation facilities. This robust system is a result of decades of proactive planning. Cary has grown rapidly over the past several decades; the population has doubled over the past 25 years and is expected to grow an additional 45% by 2050. Yet, despite rapid population growth, the park system has grown even faster. Per capita park access has increased from 7 acres per thousand residents in 2003 to 15 acres per thousand residents in 2023.
The Parks and Open Space Plan will chart a course for the system’s next decade, continuing to plan proactively for growth, while also evolving to meet changing needs. Cary is growing significantly more diverse: racially, ethnically, and in ages. Today, about 1 in every 4 Cary residents was born internationally, and about an equal number of residents are over 55 years old. Cultural relevance, international recreation needs, and age-friendly parks will be key themes of the plan.
Cary’s park system will also need to evolve with the changing climate, placing special focus on heat resilience and stormwater management. Nestled in the North Carolina Piedmont region, Cary’s landscape is characterized by rolling terrain and a dendritic network of creeks and streams, rippling peacefully through forests. The distributed pattern of creeks and protected land means that a slice of nature is never far from home for Cary residents. This immediate access to nature-experiences sets apart Cary’s open space network from many peers. The plan will look at opportunities to expand environmental access and education – high priorities for residents who have shared their feedback so far.Project Images