Join me? 2018: Year of Community Research

Academic researchers: You are partnering with community members for your research (or you would like to), but you’ve run into roadblocks and challenges. Sound familiar? Let’s talk. As a 3rd year Ph.D. student, I see that academic communication researchers (and other social scientists) are doing useful and important research in the community that is of great benefit to our society. Yet, beyond some readings on field research in a graduate school methods course, I have seen very few opportunities for conversation and learning about the practice of community research.

For example, maybe you need a forum for working through ethical challenges that arise when working in the field. You are considering drafting a formal written agreement outlining expectations with your community research partner. Or you wonder how to effectively explain the need for IRB to a community partner who is unfamiliar with it? I’ve heard these concerns, among others, discussed by academic researchers who are engaging in research partnerships with community members outside of academia.

For this reason, I have named 2018 the year of community research — a year-long journey of resource-sharing and community-building among community researchers. I believe it is time to celebrate this valuable research and collaborate to improve our efforts. Join me? Sign up to receive updates here.

Resource sharing

Seeking resources

Your thoughts?

  • Submit your questions, challenges, or needs regarding community research practice. These responses will drive my year of community research efforts.

P.S. Wondering what I mean by “community research?” I use this loose term to address a large audience of academic researchers who are reaching beyond the walls of academia to develop responsive research questions, collect data in the field, and/or provide informative results in collaboration with or using input from community members. For example, Lynsey collaborated with a local advocate and key informant to collect and analyze data from a special population, and Jeanette shared evidence with stakeholders by developing a custom training for practitioners. You may call it applied research, community engaged scholarship, community-based participatory research, action research, or something else. To me, your particular methodology is not as important as the drive we share to engage the community with research.

Innovative research partnership: Michelle and Frank improve the D.A.R.E. curriculum

Innovative research partnerships is a series of profiles about collaborations between Ph.D. communication researchers and working professionals in the community. I consider these partnerships innovative because of the creativity involved in initiating and sustaining cross-sector collaborative research. Through separate interviews of both partners in the collaboration, I share the unique stories behind the partnerships, the challenges they face in their collaborative efforts, and the fruits of these partnerships. The series was started in anticipation of my two conferences sessions on research partnerships at ComNet17 in September and NCA in 2017.

Today, we hear from Michelle Miller-Day and Frank Pegueros. They have worked together to revise D.A.R.E.’s drug prevention curriculum based upon evidence-based strategies. Let’s start with what Frank has to say about this partnership.

Frank Pegueros is the CEO and President of D.A.R.E. America.

On what he has gained from the partnershipFrank said that D.A.R.E. has partnered with many researchers and experts over the years to evaluate their efforts because “anything delivered in the classroom should be evidence-based.” Collaborating with Michelle and her research partner, Michael L. Hecht, over the span of a decade has resulted in significant improvements to the curriculum. Frank said D.A.R.E. is in the process of organizing a full evaluation of the revised curriculum, but preliminary evaluations show positive results.

On his role in the partnership: D.A.R.E. provides drug prevention education for elementary, middle, and high school students. Frank said that experts who develop curriculum programs don’t always get to see their program implemented on large scale, but Michelle’s team is committed to seeing the program reach students. Frank added that he believes partnering in this way helps program developers get input and to better understand audiences for their curriculum programs. By partnering with D.A.R.E., the developer’s program avoids getting “placed on a shelf to gather dust.”

On challenges the partnership faced: Frank said that he and Michelle and Michael have worked together for a long time, adding that their partnership hadn’t faced any significant challenges.

On why the partnership works: The fact that “both sides are open” has made the partnership successful, according to Frank. He said both he and Michelle are after the same thing — achieving positive outcomes in the classroom.

Dr. Michelle Miller-Day is a professor in the School of Communication at Chapman University.

On how the partnership got started: D.A.R.E. contacted Michelle and Michael after conducting a search of evidence-based substance use prevention programs. D.A.R.E. ultimately chose to partner with Michelle and Michael to use their middle school  keepin’ it REAL (kiR) program, which had been listed in the national registry for evidence-based programs and practices. The program was found to achieve positive results in several controlled trials and effectiveness studies. Since adopting kiR, Michelle and Michael’s company REAL Prevention has worked with D.A.R.E. to create an elementary program and several high school programs.

On why this research matters: Michelle said that the partnership with D.A.R.E. means their team’s drug prevention program reaches 2.3 million children every year with a curriculum that is evidence-based.

On challenges the partnership faced: Michelle described how her team “D.A.R.E.-ified” the kiR curriculum. This involved incorporating input from multiple stakeholder groups including students, D.A.R.E. officers, and educators, many of whom had differing needs. Michelle said this process took a lot of time but “it wasn’t insurmountable.”

On why this partnership works: The partnership works well because D.A.R.E. focuses on training, marketing, and dissemination of drug prevention, while Michelle and Michael’s  team focus on the science and formative research.

Researchers: Four Lessons Learned About Working With Community Partners

Researchers gathered to share stories and insights about their partnerships conducting research with non-academic community partners at the 103rd annual National Communication Association convention in Dallas, Texas, this past November. Below I have summarized some of the insights they shared during our panel in the form of lessons they have learned along the way.

Panelists included, from left to right: Dr. John Parrish-Sprowl, Dr. Michelle Miller-Day, Tara Watterson (co-chair), Dr. Joann Keyton (co-chair), Dr. Jennifer Ohs, and Dr. Angela Gist-Mackey.

1. Written agreements can help protect you. Every panelist underscored the importance of formalizing the partnership and getting buy-in from decision makers in the organization with which you are partnering, usually via a written agreement. Written agreements can help protect you in case your contact at the organization leaves the position, hopefully preventing you from losing access. John Parrish-Sprowl of Indiana University encouraged researchers not to be bashful about protecting themselves through written agreements. Michelle Miller-Day of Chapman University said securing buy-in from multiple members of the organization has been crucial for the success of her research partnerships. Also, making expectations about data sharing and research outputs explicit can help ensure you are both on the same page since you and your partner are likely to have differing conceptions of research process, protocols, and outputs.

Have a handy resource, for example, a template or sample of an agreement with a community partner that you’ve used? Please join the Year of Community Research to share this resource!

2. IRB poses new challenges. Several panelists shared challenges associated with IRB. A couple of panelists agreed that although IRB and human subjects protection is important, non-academic partners are often befuddled at the need for it or turned off at the demands for signed consent forms, etc. Jennifer Ohs of St. Louis University said she ran into delays when she found she would have to secure IRB approval from both her home institution and her research partner’s healthcare institution, which added months to the timeline.

Joann Keyton of NC State University expressed the need for a short video explaining the importance of human subjects protection for social scientific research purposes that is made for non-academic audiences. Know of a resource like this? Please join the Year of Community Research to share this resource!

3. Ethical concerns arise in the field. Panelists also described instances where they had to make decisions about how to handle situations in the field that they hadn’t faced previously. These situations included differing cultural expectations and diversions by the partner from agreed-upon research protocol. One panelist described pushing back when the partner wanted to change incentives for participants in the middle of the study, at which point the researcher requested not to do so and explained how that would change the research design.

Have ideas for reading material, etc. to help navigate ethical concerns that arise during community research? Please join the Year of Community Research campaign and share this resource!

4. Community research takes more time. Panelists agreed that research in the community is more rewarding, exciting, and challenging. However, panelists also agreed that this type of research takes extra resource commitment, namely, time. It requires researchers to navigate the challenges listed in this post, among others. Partnership involves seeking shared interest, but rarely does every interest overlap. Researchers sometimes make extra commitments in order to accommodate the development needs of the partner organization that didn’t fully align with the theoretical needs of the researcher. Angela Gist-Mackey of University of Kansas shared how she agreed to conduct communication training for a partner organization as part of the agreement for research access.

Have tips for managing the time demands associated with community research? Please join the Year of Community Research and share this resource!

Resource list: Philanthropy research communication

This morning at #ComNet17, about 20 social sector leaders gathered at my breakfast session to talk about partnerships between academic researchers and philanthropy/social good organizations. We concluded that it was the first time that this group of leaders — comms professionals who are primarily interested in more effectively translating and disseminating research to help drive social change — had gathered in the same room. Now we need to figure out how to keep the conversation going!

In that spirit, I have gathered a list of resources shared during our discussion. Please contact me with additional resources to add to this list and I will keep it updated.

Translation:

  • The Conversation – a news site for academic researchers to write articles about their findings
  • Greater Good – online magazine for translation of positive psychology findings

Support:

Research repositories:

  • IssueLab by Foundation Center – “Free research from social sector organizations around the world”
  • See also Foundation Center’s new campaign, Open for Good, encouraging foundations to openly share their knowledge

 

 

 

Innovative research partnership: Jeannette and Dave improve risk communication messaging training

Innovative research partnerships is a series of profiles about collaborations between Ph.D. communication researchers and working professionals in the community. I consider these partnerships innovative because of the creativity involved in initiating and sustaining cross-sector collaborative research. Through separate interviews of both partners in the collaboration, I share the unique stories behind the partnerships, the challenges they face in their collaborative efforts, and the fruits of these partnerships. The series was started in anticipation of my two conferences sessions on research partnerships at ComNet17 in September and NCA in 2017.

Today, we hear from Jeannette Sutton and Dave Cokely. Their work together addresses the improvement of communication about imminent threats, as well as quality training on this topic. Let’s start with what Dave has to say about this partnership.

Dave Cokely is an instructor at National Weather Service (NWS) Training Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

On what he has gained from the partnership: After being advised by Jeannette and several other social scientists on improving NWS risk communication messages, Jeannette led a training session for a group of NWS meteorologists who coordinate warning messages. Dave said that Jeannette designed a “brilliant” exercise, asking trainees to get their hands dirty developing messaging in various disaster scenarios. According to Dave, Jeannette’s training session received the highest rating of all sessions over the 4-day class, adding that she had “hit a grand slam.”

On his role in the partnership: Dave said he and his colleagues are frequently asking themselves how to better communicate watches, warnings, and advisories to the public to prompt action. Dave describes his role in the partnership as “start(ing) a two-way conversation” with an expert who had “absolutely critical information” to share with him and his colleagues at NWS.

On challenges the partnership faced: Dave reflected that “it takes work to get the door cracked open for these collaborations,” adding that he sees these type of partnerships happening more often. Dave said that sometimes it is hard to get meteorologists and scientists in his industry to pay attention to social sciences research because it is seen as a “soft science.”

On why the partnership works: Jeannette has a “great presence,” according to Dave, and when she presents social scientific evidence that is relevant to his colleagues, they listen. He said that she has helped him and his colleagues integrate insights from social science into an audience-centered approach to messaging, including a new training series about supporting the public’s decision-making process when preparing for disasters.

Dr. Jeannette Sutton is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and director of the Risk and Disaster Communication Center in the College of Communication at University of Kentucky.

On how the partnership got started: Dave contacted Jeannette after he heard her speak at a NWS-hosted hazard simplification conference in 2015, eventually asking her to lead a training on risk communication for NWS. Jeannette was asked to conduct this training again this fall by another contact. Jeannette said she works to build relationships with partners such as Dave so that they can collaborate in the future if an opportunity presents itself.

On why this research matters: Jeannette said she “has the privilege of working with people who are putting out life-saving messages” about disasters. Although Dave wasn’t involved in writing it up, Jeannette is publishing the training exercise she developed in a forthcoming journal article. She added that working with professionals like Dave ensures her research is responsive to the needs of people in the risk communication field.

On challenges the partnership faced: Jeannette said that it takes time and effort, on top of a busy teaching schedule and research agenda, to develop and maintain relationships with practitioners in the field of disaster communication. However, she frequently travels to present at and attend conferences such as the American Meteorological Society and Society for Risk Analysis to share her research and maintain relationships.

On why this partnership works: Jeannette said that she has seen the NWS grow increasingly interested in incorporating social science into their operations. Dave and his colleagues at NWS are interested in some of the same questions she is asking about how people perceive messages and the factors that influence how people interpret them.

Teaching as (Viral) Content Development?

On a recent episode of NPR’s How I Built This, Jonah Peretti compared teaching and viral content development. He discussed his early career as a teacher and how it inspired and informed to his later success as co-founder of Huffington Post and Buzzfeed:
“I was thinking about how to connect with my students. And to get them to learn things and get them excited. And that is something that has heavily influenced the way I think about content. Because I think if you think about content from, at the time, print and broadcast, you think about making something that you push out to this giant audience. But if you’re in a classroom teaching you know 25 kids that are in front of you, you quickly start to learn that the really good teachers are shaping the curriculum based on the feedback they’re getting from the students. They’re trying to to read the room and read the audience and get them more engaged.” – Jonah Peretti
I find this intriguing for several reasons. Anyone who has taught undergraduates can relate to the idea of feeling like a ringmaster facing a crowd of blank stares, some of them borderline hostile. Is it possible to be hostile while bored? I think my undergrads have mastered it.

So what are teachers to do to keep students engaged? Jonah Peretti’s comparison views students as a voluntary audience to be won over rather than a captive group required to receive instruction. Too often, as instructors in higher education, we gravitate toward the latter approach.

I have found as an instructor in higher education — at least at the research universities at which I have taught — a strong emphasis on instructors upholding grading and attendance policies while also delivering rigorous course content based in research. However, there is less emphasis on student engagement in the classroom — things like student motivation and student goal attainment beyond grades.

Some may criticize Jonah Peretti’s comparison of teaching and content development by assuming it could lead to shallow or trivial teaching that merely distracts students with shiny objects, especially since we are in an age of commercialization of higher education. Perhaps, however, we can learn from this perspective. Considering students an audience to be won over demands high quality instruction and engaging students in new ways.

Ultimately, Jonah Peretti emphasizes the importance of incorporating feedback from students. After all, “read your audience” is the stuff of nearly every basic communication course ever taught.

Some days as an instructor you feel that no matter having doing your darnedest to make the course content relevant, interesting, and uesful, it’s just not cutting through the blank stares. Still, as this fall semester unfolds, I’ll be taking inspiration from this interview by integrating more feedback from my audience of students to engage them in new ways.

 

Innovative research partnership: Chris and Lynsey explore recovery communication strategies

Innovative research partnerships is a series of profiles about collaborations between Ph.D. communication researchers and working professionals in the community. I consider these partnerships innovative because of the creativity involved in initiating and sustaining cross-sector collaborative research. Through separate interviews of both partners in the collaboration, I share the unique stories behind the partnerships, the challenges they face in their collaborative efforts, and the fruits of these partnerships. The series was started in anticipation of my two conferences sessions on research partnerships at ComNet17 in September and NCA in 2017.

Today, I highlight the partnership between Lynsey Romo and Chris Campau, who have worked together on research for a year and a half. Their research explores how students in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse talk to others about their recovery status (or not) given the stigma and negative reactions the students may face. First, we hear from Chris.

Chris Campau is the collegiate recovery program coordinator at Addiction Professionals of North Carolina.

On what he has gained from the partnership: Chris said that he learned from this research that some students in recovery simply “wouldn’t talk about it at all on campus.” This has informed his work in his current position coordinating support for students in recovery. Further, he noticed the empowerment and positivity he saw in students who possessed more communication strategies to manage disclosure of their recovery status. He said this has refreshed his commitment to conducting more recovery message training programs for people in recovery.

On his role in the partnership: Chris started working with Lynsey while he was a non-traditional student at NC State University. As a person in recovery himself, Chris was paid to conduct interviews asking participants who were in recovery about their experiences disclosing their recovery status or not. He asked about how they disclose their status and how disclosures changed based on whether participants were talking with drinking peers, non-drinking peers, or with professors. Chris has also been involved with analyzing data and writing up the research report.

On challenges the partnership faced: When he began his new job, Chris said the project had to be put on hold for several months and lost some steam. He said he felt he has been able to readjust and rejoin work on the research now that he has settled into his new job.

On why the partnership works: Chris said that Lynsey is “an extraordinary human being.” He said that what made the partnership successful is that both parties were equally willing to learn about the other’s work and expertise.

Dr. Lynsey Romo is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at North Carolina State University.

On how the partnership got started: According to Lynsey, the partnership began when an addiction treatment professional in Raleigh who had read a previous research article of hers about communication among nondrinkers set up a meeting to introduce Chris and Lynsey.

On why this research matters: This research expands on some of Lynsey’s previous research about the difficulty faced by former problem drinkers in social situations. Studying the social experiences of people in recovery and gathering communication strategies they use can help in developing support for this population in managing their new-found sobriety and identity.

On challenges the partnership faced: Lynsey said that, generally, doing applied research with community partners can sometimes take longer since you “lose some control of the process.” This can be a challenge since she is under pressure as a faculty member seeking tenure to publish her research in a timely manner. However, she said this project has been a win-win that is valuable to the community and to the academic research community.

On why this partnership works: Lynsey said that having funds to pay Chris for some of his early work interviewing participants while he was still a non-traditional student helped get the project off to a strong start. Lynsey said she and Chris have a great rapport. She added that he brings a lot to the table because “he is so passionate and has first-hand knowledge” about the research topic.

Disclosure: I have previously worked with Lynsey on research an am a co-author on the paper cited in the interview. Further, I have previously met Chris and his colleagues through research with Lynsey. I was not, however, involved in the research project discussed in this profile.

How research will drive the next stage of strategic storytelling for social good: #ComNet16 takeaways

 

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Between soaking in views of the Detroit river and DIA’s Diego Rivera mural, conference goers at ComNet16, a gathering of social sector communication leaders, found that many sessions emphasized a crucial communication challenge: good storytelling.

We know that being able to tell the story of our social issues is crucial to engaging and moving audiences. But what exactly makes for good story? What can we expect to achieve with a good story? How do we move beyond the trite, sometimes exploitative, and all-too-familiar trope: “organization x saves person y from circumstance z?”

As a researcher, I am trained to look to the data and the existing research to answer these questions. While I think there is room for more research on strategic storytelling and more translational work to make this research accessible, I was delighted to see that speakers at the conference provided some excellent case studies of how it looks to do strategic storytelling.

The first keynote with Aaron Belkin of the Palm Center kicked things off with the journey (marathon?) to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, including how research informed the campaign and messaging (read more here). Doug Hattaway later recalled how achieving marriage equality demanded shifting of the story from “lgbtq people deserve equal civil rights” to “marriage is between two committed individuals.”

John Trybus of Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication introduced us to the emerging megatrends of storytelling (think virtual reality, etc.).


In an electrifying Q&A with Jesse Salazar, NY Times columnist Charles Blow reminded us that if our storytelling does not ultimately create change, we have fallen short. Storytelling has to do more than entertain or delight. Our strategic communication should be in service of changing hearts and minds, which in turn, drives social and policy change. And it can — here’s a brief review of the science behind how stories can create change.

Nat Kendall-Taylor of Frameworks Institute and Shaun Adamec reminded us of the importance of how we frame social issues. For example, do we talk about addiction in terms of empathy (“we need to identify with addicts and treat them with compassion”) or interdependence (“everyone has a stake in solving this problem”)? Though many communicators are prone to tell stories about addiction that are meant to inspire empathy, the Institutes’s research results from a sample in Canada suggested the empathy frame may be counter productive, actually decreasing support for policies that addressed disparities in the access to and delivery of addiction services. We can’t trust that our well-intended story will have the effect that we intend on our audiences. Our storytelling must utilize strategic framing.


Finally, Doug Hattaway and Alfred Ironside presented their ambitious attempt to answer some of these questions about how to frame strategic stories and messages: a research initiative called American Aspirations, based on a nationwide survey of 2,000 people about their values. There is much still to be reported about the methods used for this study and its results (I’m studying for my PhD–I had to say it).


However, I am happy to see this proactive effort meant to find common ground for persuasive communication. The crucial question, once we’ve identified common values, is how people with certain values actually respond to the messages targeting these values. Unfortunately, we can’t always assume our communication meant to target those values are indeed perceived as in line with those values.

We must commit to the task of rigorous strategic storytelling that drives change by developing stories based on the data and by evaluating our stories for impact.

Why dedicate your career to communication?

I get various iterations of the question “Why communication?” as a response when others ask about what I am studying for my PhD. This has to do, I think, with the fact that communication is often taken for granted as a basic function of life, like breathing or sleeping. Talking is equated with communicating. Given this mindset, each of us have been communicating ever since we learned how to talk as children. How can you study something so basic and why?

Short answer: Because I’m all about creating communication breakthroughs that help to create a better reality.

Consider moments in life in which you experienced a communication breakthrough. Maybe you tried a new way of talking to loved one during those nasty recurring fights that ultimately eliminated that repetitive interaction. Maybe at work you changed the way the stale staff meeting is scheduled or arranged, leading to an entirely different conversation with new insights, priorities, or objectives. Thinking about how things were before and after such breakthroughs reveals a hopeful truth: a new, better reality (more efficient, engaging, peaceful, empowering, etc.) is created through better communication. Some scholars refer to development of such breakthroughs as generativity.

When we view communication as a process of creating messages to facilitate shared meaning–or more boldly, to drive action–the distinction between communication and strategic communication becomes more clear. In fact, there are a maddeningly endless number of ways to organize and present a message, each of which are more or less strategic than the others. These are choices that we make–whether we are aware of this fact or not–as we create and share messages in our lives or in our work. How should the message be framed? What language, phrases, terms, or figurative devices should be used? Who should deliver the message? How and when should it be transmitted? How should it be tailored for the audience(s)? And so on.

So, why do I study communication? Because I want to immerse myself in the research to get to the bottom of these questions, which inform how to create more strategic messages that help to bring about more understanding, less stigma, more motivation, and more action!

 

Top 5 public parks in Raleigh (or 5 of many reasons I’m sad to leave)

My husband and I are excited to be moving this month to Lexington, Kentucky. However, we are also sad to be leaving Raleigh. This is for many reasons, First, the great people. Second, the natural beauty of the area, which is accentuated by so many fabulous parks. It is about the latter of these reasons I would like to do some reminiscing.

For the past four years, my husband and I have called downtown Raleigh home — and before that, NC State campus. During this time, we’ve made it our goal to explore as many of the fabulous parks in this area as possible — and we still didn’t hit them all!

Our most recent visit to North Raleigh Landfill District Park

Our most recent visit to North Wake Landfill District Park

I’m proud to say we visited all 8 Wake County parks, 10 of the 90+ City of Raleigh parks, biked many of the greenways — and visited many other parks in the Triangle area, including State parks such as Umstead, NC State parks such as JC Raulston Arboretum, and privately-owned parks such as Joslin Garden, and WRAL Azalea gardens.

Given these experiences, I humbly offer my picks for top five public parks to visit in Raleigh — my love letter to this beautiful city! Each of these parks offer both opportunities to enjoy the greenery of Raleigh as well as cultural and educational enrichment. The combination of a beautiful space that also engages you intellectually or culturally in the history and strengths of your community is what makes a great park experience to me.

Without further ado, I present my top five parks to visit in Raleigh:

#5 – Lake Crabtree County Park

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Biking at Lake Crabtree Park

Technically, this park is located in Morrisville, but it might as well be Raleigh as it’s located off of Aviation Parkway next to I-40. My favorite part is the fabulous green expanse that backs up to the Lake Crabtree waterside, which on many weekends is crawling with frisbee throwers, dog walkers, family picnicers, volleyball players and more. Yet, the park rarely feels crowded (as does Umstead). The park also boasts boating, wooded trails and mountain biking trails.

Don’t miss: Climbing the tower in the boathouse for a gorgeous view of Lake Crabtree and recreational areas in the park.

 

#4 – Pullen Park

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As the first public park in NC, Pullen Park is a significant Raleigh historic site — including a working carousel from 1911 (which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places). Yet, this park continues to evolve and recreate itself into an even more interesting place for families to gather and enjoy themselves. You’ll also find miniature train rides, pedal boating, an aquatic center, and arts center to boot.

Don’t miss: the Drum Circle / Hoop Jam at Pullen every Wed eve at 6:30 p.m April – October.

# 3 – Historic Yates Mill County Park

This park off of Lake Wheeler Road has so much to offer. The short wooded trail around

Yates Mill Park during the holidays

Yates Mill Park during the holidays

Yates Mill Pond includes viewpoints of the historic corn mill. One of my favorite parts of this park, however, is the interactive educational center — the best in the county, I’d say. The high level of community involvement in this park (read about the Yates Mill Associates) is evident in the well kept grounds, its frequent programming, and even its Facebook page, which consistently keeps fans posted with natural and wildlife sightings from the park for those of us who want to enjoy from afar.

Don’t miss: The 30 minute guided tour of the mill Saturdays 1-3 p.m.

#2 – NCMA Museum Park

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Biking at NCMA Park

Here is yet another beautiful oasis in the midst of our busy city. The NCMA park is a spacious area of woodland trails and grassy vistas dotted with works of art by artists both native to NC (see: Vollis Simpson and Thomas Sayre) and nationally known (see: Roxy Paine‘s Dendroid). In early summer, the Rodin Sculpture Garden outside of the West Building, plays host to a blooming pond of water lilies. Wander down by the amphitheater to see up close the components of the park’s coolest secret: larger than life Picture This installation. Trails are good for both biking and walking. Take the main trail all the way to the pedestrian bridge over 440 for a dizzying walk and a reminder of the crowds rushing about their busy lives just outside the park while you relax.

Don’t miss: Pick out your favorite film or concert from the Museum’s summer line up to enjoy an outdoor show surrounded by lit up sculptures and fireflies over head.

#1 – Historic Oakview County Park

Our wedding at Oakview Park

Our wedding at Oakview Park

In my opinion, this park is one of the best kept secrets in Raleigh. Located next to Olivia
Rainy Library at the corner of 440 and Poole Road, it is not an area I often frequent, but the trip out there is always worth it. My husband and I love this park so much, we got married there!

This park will charm you out of your socks. While not as well maintained or glitzy as some of the others, the park packs a lot in a small area. The most noticeable feature at first is a beautiful, upward sloping pecan tree grove that perfectly shields the park from the noise of nearby 440, creating a quiet refuge for you to discover the many facets of this park. The kid-oriented education center focuses on local farming and life on this land in the 1800s. Wander past the rustic water tower through the historic buildings including the colonial style family home, cotton gin house, and more. You can even pick cotton from the cotton field during cotton season! Like other special parks in Raleigh, this one has a long history which includes many familiar local family names.oakview

 

Don’t miss: Meeting the park’s resident creatures: two friendly goats who will let you pet them and feed them (park-approved food of course!).

I’ll end with a thanks to Raleigh city, county, state, community, and business leaders who have worked and donated to establish and ensure on-going support for these fabulous public spaces. I’m just excited to see how the newest park in the works, Dix Park, has blossomed when we return to Raleigh!