An Afternoon in Cascades Park

Everyone knows what a park is right? It’s one of those places with the trees, a swingset, and those grill things right? Or is a park a place with waterslides and wavepools? A park, generally speaking, is a piece of ground in or near a city or town kept for ornament and recreation (Park). This definition covers everything for water parks to Yellowstone National park. Any area of space whether a slab of concrete or the most scenic natural landscape can be a park, it’s all about the purpose. But more important than the question of what a park is, is the question of what makes a good park. Does a good park need to have a swing set, or does every good park need a four story waterslide? The best way to answer these questions is to look at a good example of a park and see what makes it great.

New York’s Central Park is the most famous park in the United States if not the entire world and for good reason, it is a breathtaking place to be. The most striking thing about Central Park is its location, it is right smack in the middle of New York City. Another thing that makes it so famous is that the park offers hundreds of special attractions like a zoo, a carousel, and even an outdoor theater (Attractions). In addition to theses attractions there are bike rentals, horse carriage rides, and plenty of benches and bathrooms to make everyone's stay more enjoyable. It is an especially magical place for children who will remember their visit for years to come.

Perhaps more important than just the physical aspects of the park is how the park makes people feel, or the atmosphere of the park. Central park is well known for its relaxing atmosphere which ties into its location of being an oasis of calm in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world. After looking at an example of an excellent park, we now have a standard for what a park should be.

“The Cascades, also known as the Cascade Falls, are one of Jackson’s most unique and spectacular attractions. Visitors gaze at the twinkling lights while enjoying a variety of music, cooled by a fine mist from the powerful fountains” (The Cascades). Many people in Jackson are introduced to the falls at a young age when their parents take them sledding on the hill. When there isn’t snow on the ground, many people like run up the hill to workout and get in shape. Outside of the hill and the falls, there is also a long walking and running path, many small ponds and rivers, a pavilion, many water fountains, and a few porta-pottys in addition to a proper bathroom. So how does Cascades park compare to Central Park and other parks in the world?

There are three important criteria that a park needs to meet in order to be a good park. A park needs attractions, amenities, like bathrooms and benches, and finally a pleasant atmosphere. Cascades has a fair amount of attractions for a town the size of Jackson. The falls are something which you would only expect out of quite a large city like Grand Rapids or Detroit, so Cascades is quite impressive in this regard. The walking paths of the park are heavily used all year long except through the harshest parts of winter, the hill is very large and perfect for sledding, and the pavilion is used frequently throughout the summer. The natural beauty of the park is very unexpected in Jackson which can often seem to be a bleak and gray city.

Cascades is also an excellent place for parents and their children. You can take your kids for a walk around the park and then have them play on the slides while you get them ice-cream. If they get tired, they can rest at the many benches in that part of the park or get a sip of water from the water fountain attached to the Ice Cream Co. After finishing up at the park, you can take the kids to the falls.

At the falls, you can sit, relax, and listen to some live music while the kids go around the falls or you can go up and down and have fun in the spray of the fountain with them. At the fountain there are refreshments, plentiful seating, and bathrooms for you and the kids.

Nothing is worse than when your having a good time but you or perhaps your children need to use a bathroom, and there are none in sight. This is why things like bathrooms and benches are important, if you don’t have them in your park, then it can ruin an otherwise pleasant experience.The amenities of Cascades are overall adequate, except for the bathrooms. There are a few porta-pottys but there is only one permanent bathroom which is light for a park as spread out as Cascades is. Water fountains and places to rest are plentiful and there is a paddle boat rental place but it’s only open for a small portion of the year and does not seem to be particularly popular. The best amenity which borders on an attraction really is the Cascades Ice Cream Co. which is popular throughout the ice cream season especially in the afternoon when parents take their kids to play on the nearby slides.

The atmosphere of the park varies quite a bit depending on your location in the park. The play equipment and ice cream shop are always a very happy and lighthearted place and the walking paths are pleasant but people tend to keep to themselves. The hill is either filled with children and adults sledding down the hill or people are working out there which changes the atmosphere of that part of the park.

Compared directly to Central Park, Cascades doesn’t stand much of a chance. But, when population and how many people the park was built for is taken into consideration, Cascades holds up pretty well. The falls are elegant and are of a scale you wouldn’t expect out of a city the size of Jackson. The amenities, overall, are adequate for a park of this size and serve the park well. Overall the atmosphere of the park is both and carefree and tranquil.

On a scale of one to ten, with ten being exceeds expectations, five being meets expectations, and one being fails all expectations, I would give the attractions of the park a solid nine based on how grand the falls are and how how large they are for a city the size of Jackson. Based on the same scale I would give the amenities of the park a six. The bathrooms are below average, and everything else is fine, but the Ice Cream Co. in particular brings the ranking up by at least a whole point. The atmosphere of the park is harder to judge. Atmosphere changes depending on the time of the year and location within the park so my judgment is based on the overall atmosphere throughout the year and in all parts of the park. That being said, I give the parks atmosphere an eight out of ten. During the summer, the falls and walking paths are accessible but during the winter all the fun is at the hill with the sledding so that is why its an eight.

A park is simply a space set aside for people to enjoy. New York’s Central Park is probably the most famous park in the world and is the ultimate example for a public park. Jackson’s Cascades Park does not compare well directly compared to Central Park but holds its own when the population the park was meant for is taken into account. Cascades elegant falls is something you would see in a much larger city than Jackson and is a lovely main attraction for the park. The parks amenities are okay but the Cascades Ice Cream Co. is really something special and adds a lot to the park. Overall, the atmosphere of the park is very pleasant but it changes depending on time and place. It is also a great place for children and their parents. You can spend a whole day walking around the park and eating ice cream and finally ending the evening with visit to the falls. For many cities, a park is a symbol of it’s prosperity. That said, what does Cascades park say about Jackson?

“Attractions”. Centralpark.com. Greensward Group, 2017. Web. Feb. 20, 2017.

“Park”. Merriam-Webster. Web. Feb. 20, 2017.

“The Cascades”. Experience Jackson. Experience Jackson. Web. Feb. 23, 2017.

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