Winter at the park: Staff keeps busy while Yates Mill is closed

By Rebeccah J.W. Cope
Program Director

Yates Mill pond in fall

The millpond this fall. Click to see a larger version, then look along the shore at lower right to see one of our autumn guests!

While the leaves on the trees surrounding the millpond are changing from their summer greens to the colors of fall and the migratory birds are making their way through the area, park staff is already thinking about winter and planning for the many activities that will take place during the months when the mill is closed.

We’ll wrap up the 2013 mill tour season with a few more guided tours through the end of November, including the season’s final corn-grinding weekend on Nov. 16-17. Then our volunteer interpreters will meet Dec. 1 to review the year and consider changes and improvements to our tours.

The park has organized a Cornmeal Cooking Contest for Nov. 17. Contestants can share recipes and get constructive cooking feedback just in time for the holiday season. There is no fee to enter but all contestants will be asked to vote for their favorite dishes. Entries must include at least a half cup of cornmeal and the prizes will include cast iron cookware, cookbooks and more!

Today, the staff is hosting a Barbecue and Bluegrass event for our volunteers, with live music from our favorite local band, the Kudzu Ramblers. Our volunteers work so hard that we like to show them our appreciation whenever possible. We’ll also hold our annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet in January, when the volunteer-of-the-year and other awards will be announced. Keep an eye on this news page for the list of winners!

The mill is always closed to tours in December, January and February and this year will be roped off during major repair work to the forebay (the “box” that channels water from the pond over the waterwheel). But the park will be open and busy.

Already the number of client photography groups coming out has picked up significantly and park staff has had to educate a number of people on where they can safely be while taking their pictures. Take a look at the graphic of the mill dam area that shows what’s off limits and the Wake County photography policy. It’s online here and also is posted in the park kiosks.

While the mill is being repaired, the mill yard and the creek crossing area below the dam will sometimes need to be closed, so the loop trail around the pond will not always be accessible. But there’s another loop that will remain open throughout this time-frame: Take the Mill Pond Trail to the left from the Pond Boardwalk to where the High Ridge Trail loops back to the right towards the Wetlands Boardwalk and then back to the parking lot. This loop is about 1.25 miles long.

Among other winter-time activities, the park will host Yates Mill Associates’ holiday cornmeal and merchandise sale on Dec. 7. Stay tuned for details from YMA.

On Dec. 14, we’ll host Wake Audubon’s Winter Bird Count, as well as the Wake County parks division’s winter-time gathering for staff and their families.

We’ll also be getting ready for the 8th annual “Mill as Muse” community art and photography contests, with entries due on Feb. 2 (again, more information is coming soon). That same day, we’ll have a creative arts session for kids to encourage them to enter the contest. Like last year, there will be adult and youth categories focused on the mill, nature and wildlife, and people in the park. The contest rules and entry forms will be available by the end of November. The award ceremony and opening of the contest exhibit is planned for Feb. 8 in the park’s visitor center.

We have lots of fun park activities all year round. To keep up to date on them and all the park news, please check out the park’s program and tour offerings on our webpage, where you can sign up for our e-newsletter. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook, where we post lots of pictures and daily news from the park. (And remember, you don’t have to be a member of Facebook to view our page and photos.)

We look forward to seeing you at Historic Yates Mill County Park!


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