TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A combined 133 parks. That’s the total tally listed by the city websites of Tallahassee, Thomasville, and Valdosta alone. Throw in parks from Bainbridge, Cairo, Quitman, Quincy, Crawfordville, Monticello, and every other city in North Florida and South Georgia and that number only grows, seemingly exponentially.
You have parks that are simply trails, like Valdosta’s Azalea City Trail. You have parks that aren’t even for people, like Thomasville’s Dog Park at Balfour Park. You have parks with a plethora of options, like Tallahassee’s A.J. Henry Park. Unless you live out in the sticks, you’re probably within a 10-minute drive to multiple parks. Heck, you might even be in walking distance to a few of them.
Most park-goers will have their favorite local park, either close to home or on the way to your job, school, grocery store, etc. However, there are a few parks that stand out to me in the Big Bend and South Georgia that every park lover should see at least once.
THE BIG OAK PARK AND GAZEBO, ELIZABETH IRELAND POE PARK
124 East Monroe Street, Thomasville GA
(Information from www.thomasvillega.com)
It might be one of the smallest parks I’ve ever seen, just a lot in downtown Thomasville, but it’s not the size of the lot that counts, rather the size of the attraction on the lot: Thomasville’s Big Oak. The Big Oak is 332 years old and measures 68 feet high with a spread of 164 feet at it’s widest reach. The Thomasville Visitors’ Center says the oak is a popular place for weddings, receptions, and other community events. One more unique amenity to this park is a camera, set up by the city of Thomasville that takes pictures of guests to the park under the Big Oak and posts those pictures online.
1401 N. Patterson Street, Valdosta GA
(Information from www.vlpra.com)
Drexel Park is an 11+ acre park just off the campus of Valdosta State University in Winnersville. Featuring a playground and picnic area, it’s a great spot to relax for an afternoon, but Drexel Park makes my list specifically for two reasons. First, the park hosts the annual Azalea Festival. In 2012, more than 20,000 people from across the southeast attended the festival with more than 140 venders from as far away as Ohio. Talk about a packed park! The second reason Drexel Park makes the list here is very much sports related (no surprise coming from the sports guy). The park is across the street from Bazemore-Hyder Stadium home to the Valdosta Wildcats and defending D-II National Champion Valdosta State Blazers. Before home games, plenty of tailgaters pack Drexel Park before heading over to cheer on their home team.
TOM BROWN PARK
501 Easterwood Drive, Tallahassee FL
(Information from www.talgov.com)
Tom Brown Park is the largest park in Tallahassee, and the city’s parks and recreation department puts that size to good use. Inside the park, you’ll find athletic fields for soccer and baseball, courts for tennis and sand volleyball, trails for walking or biking (even special trails for mountain biking), a disc golf course, multiple playgrounds, and I could go on. Tom Brown Park was named 2004 “Best in America” by the National Recreation and Park Association, so it’s not just one of the best parks in our area, but one of the best parks across the country. Tom Brown Park hosts many events throughout the year, but my favorite is the city’s 4th of July Fireworks Show held, conveniently, every July 4th.
OCHLOCKONEE RIVER STATE PARK
429 State Park Road, Sopchoppy FL
(Information from www.floridastateparks.org)
Lovers of the outdoors will love Ochlockonee River State Park. Make it a day trip or a weekend getaway, as the park offers full-facility camping grounds to go along with it’s trails and picnic areas. A boat ramp offers easy access to the river, where anglers will find freshwater and saltwater fish inhabiting the surrounding waterways, including largemouth bass, bream, catfish, and speckled perch. For the wildlife enthusiast, Ochlockonee River State Park has a diverse population of resident creatures, if you have the soft footsteps and the patience to seek them out.
BILL REYNOLDS SPORTS PARK
1100 Cox Ave, Bainbridge GA
(Information from www.billreynoldssportscomplex.com/)
NATURALLY, the sports guy needs to have a park dedicated to sports on this list, and you’re not going to find one better than Bainbridge’s Bill Reynolds Sports Park. If you have trouble getting a spot on one of eight baseball fields, eight softball fields, five basketball courts, two soccer/football/multi-purpose fields, and 14 tennis courts, then my goodness, it’s just an unlucky day. Located on the southwest side of the city of Bainbridge, Bill Reynolds Sports Park has parking space for more than 500 vehicles.
These parks listed above are my favorites, but there are so many others in the area, so I’ll give you a few more resources for you to do your own parks research. Below are a few more websites in addition to those listed above. I hope they will be helpful and that your next afternoon, evening, morning, day, or weekend out in the Big Bend and South Georgia is enjoyable and relaxing!