Steele Creek Park photo by Jeremy Stout
Visitors of Steele Creek Park experience nature at its fullest within the Bristol city limits. For the past year, visitors have been paying to enter the park. Cars pay $2, buses $10, or $50 for an annual pass with options to pay using a credit card or cash. Once drivers pay the admission fee, they can choose from an educational tour of the nature center, quiet fishing in a 52-acre lake, miles of gentle or strenuous hiking trails, tree lined walking/bike trails, a 10-minute children’s train ride, sports in an open field, disc golf, or a picnic under shade trees.
“The most striking thing about Steele Creek park is just how large it is,” said Jeremy Stout, nature center manager. “It’s over 2,200 acres, which is larger than most parks right in the city. Suburban residents can walk down to their local park for a wilderness experience. This is a great place for someone who’s looking for seasonal opportunities such as trails, picnics, water access and train rides.”
Much is to be experienced at Steele Creek Park, and more is yet to come. Stout said that the Steele Creek Nature Center is about to more than double in size. Currently surrounded by the lake, a wildflower trail, an herb garden and a butterfly garden, the informative nature center serves to protect and preserve the park’s natural resources.
“Naturalist employees provide history and conservation educational programs for schools, colleges, scout groups, and other nonprofits,” said Stout. “The nature center is full of things that can be found in the park.”
When children visit the nature center, Stout said he encourages questions and interactive education about plants and animals that are indigenous to the area. “We meet curriculum standards, so teachers who bring their students to the nature center get their state-mandated needs met while we do all the work,” said Stout.
According to department director Terry Napier, the nature center expansion will enable them to add additional animals, a more user-friendly library, more space for labs and lectures, and multiply the number of summer camps. “It’s exciting to double our opportunities at the nature center,” said Napier.
Another addition the park is planning is a splash pad by next spring. The park is partnering with the Junior League of Bristol to build a small playground, splash pad, shelter, bathrooms and additional parking.
“We look forward to gently increasing our opportunities at the park while still conserving our green space,” said Napier. “Our goal is to always maintain the natural space. As long as we can enhance the experience of visiting our park without disturbing the natural space, we’ll keep making improvements.”