Milburnie Park Master Plan

The City of Raleigh currently owns two park sites in the vicinity of Milburnie Dam, formerly known as Neuse Park East and West. As part of this plan, these sites have been renamed Milburnie East and West and are referred to as such. The master plans for each of these sites can work independently. The plan, however, strongly recommends connecting them by means of a pedestrian bridge and developing the river Corridor area between and adjacent to them to create a unified park named Milburnie Park.

Relationship to the River Corridor

Anderson Point Park and Milburnie Park are the first two Arrival Parks to be developed as part of the Neuse River Regional Park. The specific master plans are based on the individual qualities that each site offers relative to its relationship with the river and the potential for recreation opportunities beyond river-oriented amenities and facilities. Each park is considered as a part of the proposed larger whole. As parts of this larger whole, the plans for these parks focus on the unique contributions the parks can make to the regional system. The plans for these parks will be diminished or significantly compromised if the greater Corridor/Regional Park goals are not pursued and accomplished to reasonable degrees. This is because they are designed as Arrival Parks, offering and enhancing services to the Corridor, rather than as independent destinations. These park plans do not offer a model for other Arrival Parks because each Arrival Park plan must seek, identify and develop its unique qualities as a critical node in the Regional River Park System.

Milburnie West

Summary Site Description (Analysis Map)

Milburnie West is a 35 acre site consisting of upland ridges and slopes underlain by bedrock close to the surface. Much of the land was formerly cultivated or used as a trailer park, resulting in typical old field vegetation and stands of young pines. It has approximately 1,050 feet of river frontage above Milburnie Dam and borders Bridgers Lake and its outlet to the Neuse at the northern end of the park. The flood plain along the river is very narrow and open with rough lawn extending to a fringe of trees at the river's edge. The river banks are low, and water level fluctuations are less extreme than elsewhere along the Corridor due to the dam. On the western edge of the site the vegetation is a medium aged woodland of mixed hardwoods and pines. There is a small area of large mature hardwoods on the steep slopes above the existing greenway trail and hardwood forest and open groves on the slopes south of the central ridge. The site offers excellent opportunities for views of and access to the river and for connections between the river Corridor and adjacent open uplands.

Master Plan Summary

(Milburnie Master Plan drawing)

The master plan proposes a community park focused on river related recreation, along with some field space for athletics and a traditional community center with gymnasium at the upper, inland section of the site.

Master Plan Elements

Great Lawn

A long, informal lawn along the sloping ridge parallel to the river extends from ridge top to Bridgers Lake. It offers sweeping views up and across the river and ample space for informal play, festivals, sunbathing and picnics.

Riverside Terraces and Overlooks

Terraces at several levels along the river above the dam provide overlooks and river access. A long curved terrace just above highwater level allows close contact with the river and opportunities for fishing. Another broader overlook terrace higher up the slope offers sweeping river views and space for small gatherings and picnicking. The plan preserves a grove of large existing trees on the slope above the terrace to create a stately backdrop for this area.

Canoe Launch

A canoe dock located between Bridgers Lake and the river provides a safe take-out point well above the dam for canoeists coming down river and an opportunity for a canoe rental facility. A boat house is provided nearby for this purpose. A riverside marker is proposed at the northern end of the park which will contribute to the park's identity and clearly mark the location of the canoe launch. A boardwalk extending south along the river from the canoe launch leads through a wetland forest area, connecting back to the greenway trail and great lawn.


A boathouse located near Bridgers Lake will provide restroom and snack facilities for park and greenway users as well as a potential canoe rental facility and/or storage of City-owned boating equipment. Bicycle rentals are another possibility for this facility.

Bridgers Lake

The Bridgers Lake area which includes a beaver pond and extensive wetland areas upstream, encompasses a rich variety of wildlife habitats and contains stands of coastal plain vegetation not commonly found in the Piedmont, including Bald Cypress, Sweetbay Magnolia and Switchcane. The lake and wetland areas are part of Hedingham but are designated as permanent open space to be managed according to a management plan designed by the City and agreed upon by Hedingham. A boardwalk and lakeside shelter located at the park edge of the lake will provide access for wildlife viewing and nature programs as well as for general enjoyment of the lake. The remainder of the lake and wetlands are to remain natural, including a 50 foot minimum buffer of undisturbed vegetation on all sides to provide protection for wildlife habitat and water quality as well as the scenic character of the area.

Bridgers Lake Picnic Shelter and Picnic Grove

Selective thinning of underbrush within the park woods south of Bridgers Lake will create a shady picnic area. A picnic shelter for group picnics is also proposed in this area.

Access and Parking

Raleigh Beach Road will be realigned to lead directly into the park, climbing diagonally up the steep slopes on the south edge of the site. The road then winds over the ridge and down through the woods on the western edge of the park, terminating at a circular turnaround near the boathouse. This turn-around provides access to the canoe dock and Bridgers Lake facilities as well as an opportunity for people with limited walking ability to get near the river.

The major parking area, with approximately 290 spaces, is located at the upper end of the bowl west of the great lawn. It provides convenient access to the sports field, the future community center, the great lawn and the children's play area. A smaller lot with around 100 spaces is located lower on the slope in the woods above the Bridgers Lake picnic area. A third lot with around 95 spaces is shown on the ridge above the park entrance to serve the proposed restaurant facility on the edge of the quarry as well as to provide additional parking for the community center.

Children's Play Area

A large children's play area is located in a wooded bowl just west of the great lawn with convenient access from parking and other activity areas.

Special Use Facility

A pavilion at the top of the central ridge offers long views up river over the great lawn as well as views through the woods on the south slope toward the dam area and Milburnie East. The form and use of this facility is flexible. It could be a large picnic shelter for group gatherings or could be developed as a special use building, such as a cultural or arts center or other function, depending on program needs identified by the City. Any structure built in this location should be designed to create an attractive focal point which complements the park's character and takes advantage of the extensive views afforded by this site.

Field Sports

An open playfield area approximately 200' x 400' is shown on the ridge in the western corner of the site.

Future Community Center Site

A private inholding totally surrounded by park land is identified as the site for a future community center. The center will include gymnasium space and other indoor facilities. This land should be acquired for inclusion in the park.

Restaurant/Cafe Terrace

A restaurant or cafe with outdoor terraces at the top of the old quarry will overlook the water falling over Milburnie Dam and the rock outcrops in the river below. This facility should step down the slope and provide connections to the riverfront area around the dam. The facility could be wholly public or a public/private joint venture.


There are two areas of private land located within the main boundaries of the park site. One area consisting of two vacant lots is located along the southern boundary near the proposed special use facility. The other area, consisting of four lots, two with mobile homes and two vacant, is located completely within the park, in the area where the future community center is proposed. This master plan proposes acquisition of all these properties for inclusion in the park.

Milburnie East

Summary Site Description

Milburnie East is a 24 acre wooded site bordering the east side of the river below Milburnie Dam with access from Old Milburnie Road. Steep wooded slopes and a broad wet flood plain make the site best suited for low intensity development and uses which can benefit from the site's varied topography and mature woodland vegetation.

Master Plan Summary

This master plan for Milburnie East creates an outdoor activity center for the Adventure Program in a secluded, wooded setting. Adventure program facilities focus on a ropes course and canoeing. The plan also includes trails and boardwalks through the flood plain and along the slopes to provide pedestrian access to the wetlands and flood plain forest and to provide the potential for loop trails with connections to the main greenway trail on the west side of the river.

Master Plan Elements

Ropes Course/Alpine Tower

An alpine tower, high ropes facility, and low ropes course are located on the hilltop. An open field created on the north slopes of the hilltop provides space for adventure program activities as well as to opening up views of the wetlands and river. A low ropes course consisting of a narrow trail with small clearings for individual activity sites, is located within the mature hardwood forest on the west slopes. The ropes course area, including the open field, will be enclosed by a security fence to protect the structures from vandalism and unauthorized use. This fence should be set within a vegetated buffer so the fence structure is not readily visible from either within the area or from surrounding drives and roads and does not detract from the wilderness appearance of the site. The ropes course area is accessed on foot from the parking area at the edge of the flood plain or across the bridge from Milburnie West to increase the sense of seclusion.

Canoe Launch

The existing canoe launch is incorporated into the Master Plan for this site.


A parking area for approximately 85 cars is located on the site of the existing package treatment plant, which will be abandoned when sewer lines are extended to the area. A restroom facility near the parking area will serve both the ropes course and the canoe launch.

Milburnie Park Area

Because of the differences in terrain and vegetation, the two parks offer a contrast in environmental character, proposed facilities and approaches to the river. A direct connection across the river between these sites will create a park which is greater than the sum of its parts. This master plan, therefore, has gone beyond the bounds of property currently owned by the City to suggest possibilities for future development of the land between and adjacent to the parks.

Master Plan Elements

Pedestrian Bridge

The new pedestrian bridge crossing the river above the dam follows an existing embankment on the east side believed to be the original roadbed for Route 64 and bridges both the river and the wetland on the west side. There are two masonry pillars near the river's edge opposite the embankment remaining from the earlier crossing. The central portion of the bridge will be widened to accommodate fishing and river watching. The crossing site is owned by the hydroelectric company west of the river and by the Beachwood Homeowners' Association east of the river.

Milburnie Dam

Milburnie Dam, the only surviving historic dam in the Corridor, is a unique site, offering the opportunity to see how the river has been and continues to be harnessed to provide power. The falling water and the rocky islands below the dam create a scenic attraction. The rocks and oxygenated water also create prime habitat for animals such as otters and shellfish. The existing greenway trail circumvents the area around the dam, leading through Milburnie West and crossing the large wetland forest area to the south of the hydroelectric property.

The plan reroutes the greenway trail through this area and will provide interpretive signage explaining the history of the site and the role of the current hydroelectric plant. Overlook terraces above and below the dam will take advantage of the scenic character of the site and of the long views up and down the river.

Raleigh Beach

The gently sloping sandy riverbank just south of the dam on the west side of the river, historically known as Raleigh Beach, was for many years a popular spot for picnicking and river watching. The master plan of the Milburnie Park Area renovates this area as a picnic area. A summer pavilion and terraces are proposed at the north end of the beach overlooking the falling water and housing a seasonal cafe or food vending facility, possibly linked to the restaurant above the quarry. A parking area and riverview loop drive are also shown to provide convenient access to the river in this area.

Wetland Habitats

There are a number of extensive wetland areas along the Corridor to the north and south of Milburnie Park which offer a wide variety of high quality wildlife habitat. The dam impoundment created large wetland lakes and marshes upstream, just above the dam on the east side and further north on the west side. Tributary streams and drainageways feed extensive hardwood swamp forests above Bridgers Lake and below Raleigh Beach Road. There is also a small cypress pond between the dam and the proposed pedestrian bridge on the east side. Preservation and protection of environmental quality is the paramount guideline for all these wetlands. A boardwalk loop is designed at the southern end of the lake at the eastern end of the pedestrian bridge. Interpretive trails may also be provided at other wetlands, but should be designed to leave large portions of each area inaccessible so as to protect wildlife refuges and breeding grounds.