garderJ. Bayard Clark Park and Nature Center, or as it is more commonly known Clark Park, is a true gem. Located at 631 Sherman Drive, the park is the second largest regional park in the city. It provides residents with beautiful natural woodlands. The three trails in the park showcase local animals, the Cape Fear River and all of the native woodland plants. The park also provides a safe haven for local wildlife and helps to preserve the environment. Park rangers educate residents about trails and all of the beautiful things that can be seen beside them. The park amenities include a picnic area with eight tables and a parking lot near the beginning of the five-mile Cape Fear River Trail, which is a perfect for the beginning of a walk, run or ride. To make things even easier, the trail is paved. Clark Park also offers opportunities for learning through the events hosted at the park. Typical events include activities such as nature fairs, basic astronomy and animal print tracking just to name a few. This year’s events include the Fairy and Action Figure Fort Fest.  This is a three-day introduction to miniature gardens. These small gardens are increasingly popular and can be used as “forts” or homes for equally small dolls, depicting magical creatures like trolls, fairies, animals or action figures. The goal of this three-day event is to help groups or individuals learn about and then construct their own miniature gardens.

Day one is Thursday, Aug. 25. from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Park rangers lead  workshops about what goes in to making a successful miniature fort or garden. Friday, Aug. 26, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. is dedicated to building these forts or gardens. The third and final day, Aug. 27 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. is a public viewing of all the gardens.  

While fairy gardens are popular, they are definitely not a new concept. Their debut in the U.S. can be traced to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair where the bonsai dish gardens at the Japanese Pavilion enthralled the American public. The exhibit was such a hit that The New York Times featured them in an article, according to “The practice of Fairy Gardening® has been around for more than 100 years and today, many of the fairy gardeners we meet throughout the country are thrilled to tell us how the tradition has been passed down from one generation to the next,” the website notes. 

One of the things that makes miniature gardening so much fun is that the builder’s imagination is the only thing limiting the creation and design of the garden. Because they are small, these gardens work well in small spaces. They can be used indoors or outside.  

Workshops and building days are hosted in the shade of the forest on Clark Park trails. Guests who come on Aug. 27 get to vote on the best forts. Registration is required for groups and individuals. To register, call 433.1579.

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