Living in Belfast has become quite trendy, at least compared to the old days of shoe factories and poultry plants. Belfast has become known as a cruise ship destination, a boutique town, artsy, ... cultivated.
Of course it wasn't always that way, far from it. But one constant that was here through the "bad" times and now during the "enlightened" times, was and is The Belfast City Park.
I can say this because I've lived it. I've been a Belfast resident for 63 of my 67 years. (The "away" years being devoted to earning a degree in Massachusetts.) So I think I can speak with some authority on the subject.
Being situated on High St., which is actually old U.S. Rt. 1, (BBP..before the by-pass), the park was established in 1904 and consists of 17.5 acres of land that gently drops down to the shore of Belfast Bay. The first things that you'll see going thru the wrought iron gates is a memorial dedicated to our veterans and the old baseball field that has seen many a Little League Game.
Along the gravel driveway and dirt paths there are signs describing many of the trees in the arboretum that have been planted by future thinking citizens (both past and present), including this venerable horse chestnut.
The tennis courts, swimming pool and playground are not far away and are very actively used.
To the left is a common ground once home to the Annual Belfast Broiler Festival. Over the years many thousands of festival goers were served up delicious chicken, grilled over tons of charcoal that was enclosed in cinder block pits. A grand time was had by all.
To the right is a parking lot and horseshoe pit area that was the location of the old park pool. I spent many a summer day swimming and playing in the old pool and lounging on beach towels with my friends on the banked lawns overlooking it and the bay.
Speaking of which..often times we would search for shade in the pavilion or head down to the shore for a swim. Many kids would walk the shoreline back to town to their homes on Bayview or Union Streets. Which in those days may not have been an easy task given the slicks of chicken fat that layered the rocks after the tide had dropped. But we took it all in stride...it was just the way it was..
Coming back up the looped, park road you'll pass the basketball and pickle ball courts as well as some newly installed outdoors fitness benches. Years ago there was some discussion about paving the road but it never happened as a lot of people were concerned that a paved road would encourage drivers to go too fast.
Personally I'm glad the gravel has stayed as a reminder, at least to me, of the slower paced days of my childhood.
So if you're in town attending one of the many festivities that we now celebrate, take a tour of our park. Stretch your legs, stroll in the shade of the old trees on one of the walking paths, sit on a bench, get a bite to eat at the concession stand, take a walk along the shore.
Or maybe use one of the charcoal grills and throw on some chicken...
If you do I think you'll agree that Belfast City Park is one of the gems of our little city.