By Bill Poteat firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking to get outside this weekend to enjoy some sunshine, fresh air, and an early taste of autumn before Hurricane Irma blows into town? Gaston County's George Poston Park is a perfect destination and one that doesn't require a lot of driving time or gasoline.
LOCATION: George Poston Park is located just north of Lowell, at 1101 Lowell Spencer Mountain Road, Gastonia. It is named for the late George Poston, whose family donated a 329-acre tract to the county for the development of the park.
HOURS: Basically from dawn to dusk for walking and biking trails, fishing, and dog parks. Open seven days per week.
Want to Walk? This park is, simply put, a walker's paradise. More than eight miles of trails meander through the forested areas of the park ranging in length from an easy 0.40-mile to close to eight miles if all of the loops are combined. The trails don't really require hiking boots. Sturdy sneakers will do fine.
Want to Bike? Ditto for biking. All of the trails are for both walkers and bikers. Check the trail map kiosk for those trails which have "one-way only" travel.
Need a Bike? A Zagster Bike Station is located across the road from the park's main entrance at a smaller parking lot which provides access to the paved 0.40-mile River Loop Trail. This trail also has a short extension (unpaved) down to the South Fork River. Bikes can be rented using the Zagster app on a smartphone.
Fun with Fido? Poston devotes a lot of space to a pair of adjacent dog parks. Small breeds (25 pounds or less) have a full acre in which to frolic. Large dogs have a 4.5-mile open area in which to play fetch, roll in the grass, or simply catch up with their furry friends.
Team Sports? Poston has four lighted softball/Little League baseball fields, four lighted soccer fields, a volleyball court, and a number of horseshoe pits. The softball and soccer fields are both for team use only. The sandy volleyball court is located just above the park's lake.
Something for the Kiddies? Poston has a small children's playground adjacent to the walking and biking trailhead near the lake and a larger children's playground adjacent to the ball fields' parking area. There's also a short, safe bike loop for the youngsters called, appropriately enough, the Kids' Loop.
Feeling Hungry? The park has two covered picnic shelters, one large and one small. Reservations are recommended, especially during the busy fall and spring months.
Bait a Hook? The park has a small lake, Carl Baber Lake, which is named for a retired director of the Gaston Parks and Recreation Department. A fishing platform is centrally located, and fishing from the bank anywhere along the lake shore is also permitted.
Writer's Choice: I visited the park on a recent mid-week morning and was impressed by how peaceful the area is and by how very beautiful the woods are surrounding Carl Baber Lake. I recommend taking a moment to stop at the large map kiosk at the trailhead to decide how far you want to walk/bike and in which direction.
The Lake Trail is a great choice if you have small children, are pressed for time, or simply to want to get in a quick walk at lunchtime. The trail, which is marked by orange blazes, takes a meandering route around the lake, sometimes coming down to the lakeshore, sometimes climbing into the woods. The forest through which the trail passes is mostly hardwood, promising a great colored leaf display later this autumn.
This route is just over a mile and a half in length and, even accounting for lake gazing and looking for wildlife signs, can be done in about 45 minutes.
One drawback: Early autumn is prime time for woods spiders in western North Carolina and every arachnid in Gaston County had spun a web across the trail on the morning of my visit, making for a lot of screaming, web pulling, and plucking a couple of spiders off the top of my bald head. Make sure you find a tall guy to go first.
Need More Information: Visit the Gaston Parks and Recreation website at www.gastongov.com or call 704-922-2160.
Bill Poteat may be reached at 704-869-1855.