Once a ‘poor farm,’ now a park


By Andy Winemiller - [email protected]



Summer Recreation participants learn about nature at Fisher River Park.


Submitted photo

Kali Shouse enjoys free watermelon at a Celebrating Agriculture event at Fisher River Park.


Submitted photo

Corey Scearce dives into the ice cold waters of the Fisher River as part of a Special Olympics Polar Plunge held at Fisher River Park.


Submitted photo

Jane Loughmiller takes a frigid leap for Special Olympics Surry County athletes at a Polar Plunge held at Fisher River Park.


Submitted photo

Kortney Hiatt shoots a bow at a recent National Wild Turkey Federation Women in the Outdoors event at Fisher River Park.


Submitted photo

Editor’s Note: This is another in a continuing series of stories called “Find Your Park,” where we will highlight local, state and federal parks within this region of North Carolina and nearby Virginia communities.

Fisher River Park was once home to impoverished Surry County residents. Now it’s home to the center of Surry County recreation.

Surry County Parks and Recreation Director Daniel White said the county acquired a 400-acre parcel off of Prison Camp Road, just outside the town of Dobson, from the Jones family in 1872 for $1,000.

Adjusted for inflation, the purchase price equates to a little less than $19,000 in 2015. Somewhere along its journey parts of the property were broken off, as the park now encompasses only 135 acres.

The sprawling tract was first put to use as the “county home,” or the “poor farm,” said White.

“It was used as a place where the county’s poor lived and farmed,” explained White.

According to White, many of the old barns and other structures still stand at the park nearly 150 years after the poor farm began. There are also two cemeteries located on the property. The last historical indications the property was used as the county home can be found in the 1950s, and in the 1970s a new plan for the tract arose.

“In the mid-1970s the park was designated for recreational use,” noted White.

That stated, White said major work at the park didn’t begin until the latter part of the past century. In 1998, a portion of the park, which is also home to the county’s animal shelter, was graded and ball fields were constructed.

The ball fields, which are now great in number, host many local teams and events. Three soccer fields serve as practice fields for area teams, and another field is lighted for competition, said White. There is an adult softball field and two youth softball fields at the park.

White said one softball field is the home field of Surry Community College’s Lady Knights. In less competitive leagues, the fields are heavily utilized by church league softball teams.

The park is also an attractive destination for cross country and other running events.

“A lot of people prefer our crushed stone trails over paved trails for running,” explained White. “A number of cross country meets are held at the park every year.”

White even noted all Forsyth County schools will travel to Fisher River Park for a competition as part of the upcoming cross country season.

“They were here for an invitational, and they liked it so much they decided to hold their own event at the park.”

While the park plays host to many structured athletic events, many residents look to Fisher River Park as an oasis for a wide variety of casual recreational activities.

Through projects in the early 2000s, funded mostly by Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grants, a playground was constructed at the park, according to White. The inventory of facilities now includes picnic shelters, an amphitheater, more than six miles of mountain biking trails, a quarter-mile paved walking trail, basketball courts, a beach volleyball court and horseshoe pits.

White said the park is known for its ability to attract folks from outside of Surry County.

“Every time I’m there I run into somebody from somewhere else who has either read about the park or heard about what it has to offer,” remarked White.

Though many people come for the running trails or the mountain biking trails, White said one shouldn’t overlook the park’s namesake.

“The Fisher River in itself is an amazing attraction,” said White. “It’s a great way to cool off in the summer.”

White said the waterfront offers a waterfall and a rock slide. The river is also stocked on occasions throughout the year, making it a destination for fishermen.

Fisher River is listed as a destination by Carolina Whitewater, and White said he often gets calls from people who wish to use the park for access for their canoe or kayak.

The park is also a community center for Surry County, according to White. Events are held year-round at the facility. Some include a Women in the Outdoors event hosted by the National Wild Turkey Federation, a Cub Scout day camp, many weddings, an annual Easter egg hunt and a number of employee picnics.

The park also hosts bocce for Special Olympics and many of the Yadkin Valley Senior Games’ events.

White said while the park has transformed a great deal from its days as the county home, it will continue to transform in years to come.

Pending the approval of a stream restoration grant and another Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, nearly $1 million is set to be used to restore the banks of the Fisher River, add an 18-hole disc golf course and perform maintenance on the existing structures at Fisher River, said White.

Other possible additions White and his staff are eyeing are a fishing pier and possibly a pond.

Summer Recreation participants learn about nature at Fisher River Park.
http://elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_FisherPark1.jpgSummer Recreation participants learn about nature at Fisher River Park. Submitted photo

Kali Shouse enjoys free watermelon at a Celebrating Agriculture event at Fisher River Park.
http://elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_FisherPark2.jpgKali Shouse enjoys free watermelon at a Celebrating Agriculture event at Fisher River Park. Submitted photo

Corey Scearce dives into the ice cold waters of the Fisher River as part of a Special Olympics Polar Plunge held at Fisher River Park.
http://elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_FisherPark3.jpgCorey Scearce dives into the ice cold waters of the Fisher River as part of a Special Olympics Polar Plunge held at Fisher River Park. Submitted photo

Jane Loughmiller takes a frigid leap for Special Olympics Surry County athletes at a Polar Plunge held at Fisher River Park.
http://elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_FisherPark4.jpgJane Loughmiller takes a frigid leap for Special Olympics Surry County athletes at a Polar Plunge held at Fisher River Park. Submitted photo

Kortney Hiatt shoots a bow at a recent National Wild Turkey Federation Women in the Outdoors event at Fisher River Park.
http://elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_FisherPark6.jpgKortney Hiatt shoots a bow at a recent National Wild Turkey Federation Women in the Outdoors event at Fisher River Park. Submitted photo

By Andy Winemiller

[email protected]

Andy Winemiller may be reached at 336-415-4698.

Elkin Tribune

Andy Winemiller may be reached at 336-415-4698.

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