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Rockwood Park

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  1. Basketball Court
  2. Grill
  3. Picnic Shelter
  4. Picnic Tables
  5. Playground (Ages 2-12)
  6. Restrooms
  7. Swings - Standard
  8. Water Fountain

Rockwood Park

Rockwood Park is a 12.23 acre park located in South Durham.

Picnic Shelter

Visit the picnic shelter rentals page for complete details on renting the shelter at Rockwood Park.

Athletic Rentals

Visit the athletic rentals page for complete details on renting a court at Rockwood Park.

Rockwood Park Trees

A message from Urban Forestry

There is an insect that has quietly been making its home in Rockwood Park since roughly 2017. It feeds on our native Ash species and is aptly named the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). It isn’t really “new” (having been in North America over a decade), but it has slowly spread south from where it was introduced up in Michigan over ten years ago. As the name suggests, it is green, it eats Ash trees, and as part of its life-cycle it bores holes in the tree and ultimately kills their hosts.

This pest kills Ash trees by excessive feeding. It chews away at the tissue under the bark until the tree loses its ability to send water and sap up and down between root and shoot.

It is hard to detect because the insect itself is very small and spends most of its life way up in the tops of trees. It starts up in the crown of the tree, far from where we can see it, and it takes years for the damage to manifest as dead tops, sprouting from lower on the trunk, and ultimately in the “D”- shaped exit holes and serpentine galleries visible once the tree dies and the bark falls off.

Here in the piedmont of North Carolina ash trees are less common, and we haven’t planted any as street or Park trees in Durham since at least the 1990's. It’s found most commonly in floodplains and along creeks and draws, where we have many of our parks, greenways, and sewer easements. Our best estimate is that Ash trees make up around 6 percent of our trees.

We know this pest has been here in Durham County since 2014. As it spreads, populations of woodpeckers can be expected to increase, but little else exists in nature that will put the brakes on an exponential population explosion.

Treatments for the pest include soil drench and stem injection treatments. Once started, these would need to continue indefinitely. Once established, the EAB will persist in the wild as ash trees die back to their roots, and then sucker back up as saplings. These saplings grow to the point where they are potential hosts, and restart the process. In other words, there is no point where the background population of the EAB will disappear and ash trees can come back (as far as we know).

These treatments are expensive (~$10 per inch of diameter per year), and kill non-target insects (some are especially toxic to pollinators). For these reasons the City of Durham has opted not to use any chemical treatments.

That leaves us with the option to leave the trees alone until they start to manifest deadwood in their crowns. This is problematic because ash wood is relatively hard and heavy, and once it begins to decay it becomes brittle. After monitoring the trees in Rockwood Park, it is clear that we have now crossed that threshold. We can no longer safely leave these infested trees standing in areas where lots of people congregate.

For this reason, City crews will begin to remove ash trees from Rockwood Park as soon as access is possible and the ground isn’t too wet to drive heavy equipment on it. The ash trees have been marked with red paint. Crews will evaluate each tree from way up in the crown. Not all marked trees will be removed initially, but over the next year or two they will all need to be removed. Crews will need space to do their work and will not be mobilizing unless the ground is dry and solid to avoid creating ruts in the park. This means that projected start times will be fluid and weather dependent.

We regret the noise, disruption, and inconvenience these operations will cause. Targeted replanting will be discussed for the next planting season (beginning in November). Previous plantings were done in anticipation of this loss, and the need to resume will be evaluated once the trees have been removed and the openings in the canopy are evaluated.

Rockwood Park Floodplain

Recently, we have received a number of questions about the flooding in Rockwood Park. The following information is from our park staff to help address these concerns.

Many of Durham's parks were developed in low-lying floodplain areas along creeks. The creeks add to the serenity and natural feel of the parks and provide wildlife habitat. Repeated rain events cause creeks to breach their banks and enter into the floodplain areas which correctly collect the water and allow the water to drain back into the creeks. Unfortunately, the floodplain areas remain wet long after rain events. Increased development in all areas of Durham has resulted in more flooding events for Durham's creeks. Durham continues to seek opportunities to move park amenities and walking paths away from the floodplain areas so they are less impacted by flood waters and to allow the floodplains to continue to serve their purpose. Projects such as adding drainage pipes, adding fill, or grading usually require a floodplain development permit.

Park History

The City added the Rockwood subdivision in the 1950s, developing the park soon after. To accommodate the floodplain of a Third Fork Creek tributary, it was decided to make this land into a park. Today, Rockwood boasts playgrounds, basketball courts, a shelter, and more to make this park an enjoyable addition to the community.