June 29, 2018 – Hampton’s Carousel Park is an appealing space near the downtown waterfront, public pier, and visitor attractions with plenty of grass and trees. What it doesn’t have enough of: People.
That’s about to change. The Downtown Hampton Development Partnership and the city, based on recommendations from the nonprofit Project for Public Spaces, are adding amenities designed to bring residents, nearby workers and visitors to linger in the park.
An urban beach. The green space to the left of the carousel has become a sandy beach where people can relax, kids can play in the sand with a view of the water and boats. A brick paver walkway will be constructed over the middle of the sand area, with steps and a handicap ramp allowing a place for vendors, food service, or tables during events. Mary Fugere, head of the city’s tourism bureau, believes “the increased activity planned for Carousel Park will compel visitors to slip their feet in the sand while enjoying the vibrancy of the downtown waterfront.”
A dog activity area. This fenced off-leash area will serve downtown residents, as well as boat owners staying at the downtown pier. The plan is for an attractive wrought-iron fence that is a designated off-leash area for dogs. The partnership will post rules and monitor the area. Downtown resident Regina Mays says the area will be “a good place for local dog owners to hang out with their pets and meet new people and make new friends.”
Tables and chairs. In the open center of the park, in front of the carousel, the city will add movable bistro tables and chairs, as well as umbrellas, to create an area where brown-baggers can eat lunch and enjoy the outdoors.
Carousel. The Hampton Carousel isn’t a new feature, but increased use of the park is expected to bring more people to the restored 1920 wooden merry-go-round. Rides are $1, and the carousel operates from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays, with reduced hours in the fall. The Carousel is operated by the nearby Hampton History Museum.
The city recently announced a development plan to add apartments and townhomes, with some retail space, to downtown. That project includes a seafood restaurant that would operate in leased space along Settlers Landing Road on the left side of the park.
“I am truly excited about the new downtown development project that was recently unveiled,” said Gay LaRue, who chairs downtown partnership’s public space committee. “It is going to bring much-needed and longed-for activity to our lovely downtown. The ‘urban beach’ and dog park, along with our beautiful Carousel, are going to be wonderful amenities for all the new Hampton citizens who will be moving here.”