By Bill Poteat email@example.com
As a newcomer to Gaston County, I continue to be amazed by how outstanding its outdoor recreational facilities are. Poston Park, Rankin Lake Park and the Seven Oaks Preserve Trail were pure delights to visit, as was today's destination - Goat Island Park and Greenway in beautiful downtown Cramerton.
This 30-acre facility truly does have something for just about everyone - walking trails, river access, disc golf, fishing, fitness stations, kids' playground, a dog park and plenty of benches upon which to sit and simply take in the beauty of the South Fork River.
LOCATION: Goat Island is located in a split on the South Fork River just east of downtown Cramerton. The river's waters flow both on the west side and east side of the park, but, no reason to swim for it, two beautiful bridges span the river on each side of the park.
The park can be accessed from a 60-plus vehicle parking area at 305 Greenwood Place, or from downtown Carmerton.
The island is not currently home to any goats, but takes its name from the placement of a group of the hairy-chinned creatures there in 1910 by textile magnate Stuart Cramer in the hope they would control the lush vegetation.
WANT TO WALK? The island is home to a paved, handicapped-accessible greenway which stretches seven-tenths of a mile around the island. This walk can be extended in the pedestrian-friendly Greenwood neighborhood to the west or through downtown Cramerton to the east.
High points along the walk are the bridges over the river and also the two large observation decks directly on the river. My own walk was just over two miles, but that included a quick loop through downtown Cramerton in addition to the greenway.
WANT TO BIKE? Biking is allowed on the greenway trail, but in all honesty, the trail is a little short and likely to be crowded, especially on the weekends. I can see it being used as more of a cut through from the Cramerton side to the Belmont side than as a biking destination.
WANT TO HIT THE WATER? Neither swimming nor wading is permitted along the shores of Goat Island, but the park does feature two kayak/canoe launches, one on the island's east side and the other just across the river in Cramerton.
FUN WITH FIDO? Goat Island does have a small and well-shaded dog park at which Rover can romp with abandon. Lassie and Spot are also welcome on the greenway, so long as they are leashed and you pick up any "accidents" they may produce.
DISC GOLF? An 18-hole course circles the island, with the first hole located at the Greenwood Place parking area. An optional "19th hole" is across the river in Cramerton. The website discgolfcenter.com gives the course a 3.29 rating out of five, noting that it is very wooded with narrow fairways.
FEELING HUNGRY? A couple of individual picnic tables can be found at the Greenwood Place parking area. Other individual tables are located near the kayak/ canoe launch station. Two large, covered picnic shelters are also available and can be reserved for a rental fee. For info on that, call 704-824-4231.
BRINGING KIDS? The island has a very interesting ropes course and tower suitable for kids to play on, assuming mom and dad keep at least half an eye on what they're doing. Swings and a small children's playground are also on site.
WALKING NOT ENOUGH? If you're wanting additional cardio or strength-building, Goat Island features a fitness pavilion sponsored by CaroMont Health. The machines include an air skier, and a single air strider. Youngsters under 12 should not use the equipment. Surly adolescents between 12 and 15 should be supervised. Above 15, you're on your own. The park also has a couple of permanent table tennis sites as well as three pair of cornhole sites.
WRITER'S CHOICE: As will pretty much always be the case with me, I love the walking available here. The two bridges are great places to stand and watch the water flow, while the pair of observation decks are a great place to feel stress and worry drain away. To me, one of the most appealing aspects of this park is its proximity to the scenic village that is downtown Cramerton. I visited at mid-morning, but it would be great to walk or relax a bit and then walk over for a sandwich or ice cream or both downtown.
Bill Poteat may be reached at 704-869-1855.