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Let’s go to the park!

One of Suffolk’s oldest parks — and its largest — continues to be a place where families and friends can get together, enjoy the outdoors and have fun.

Folks who have a long memory can recall when Sleepy Hole Park had paddleboats and even a campground, and those are surely happy memories. But even though the park has changed through the years, the place it has become is still a wonderful benefit to the city.

Today’s Sleepy Hole Park is a place where visitors can enjoy family reunions, wide-open spaces, volleyball, trails, fishing in the Nansemond River or in the pond and even paddling along the river from the new kayak launch. There’s a butterfly garden maintained by Suffolk Master Gardeners and, of course, the great playground that has attracted children of several generations.

Park spaces generally are not expected to pay for themselves, but Sleepy Hole’s dozen picnic shelters, which can be rented for events, help this park come close to doing just that. And for folks looking for a place to hold a large family reunion or church picnic, there’s no better option in Western Tidewater.

“Most people end up at Sleepy Hole because they need multiple shelters that are close to one another,” Helen Gabriel, assistant director of Suffolk Parks and Recreation said in a recent interview with the Suffolk News-Herald. “You can still feel like your event is cozy and not spread out over the whole park.”

That cozy feel is one of the things that longtime Suffolk residents love best about Sleepy Hole. Visitors can spread out, throw a Frisbee, run with the dog, walk along a woodland trail and visit the river but still feel they’re part of the group, still be close enough to enjoy hamburgers on the grill and still enjoy group activities.

In recent years, Suffolk officials have taken a new interest in ensuring that residents have plenty of good options for enjoying the outdoors. Bennett’s Creek Park and an ever-expanding Lake Meade Park are great examples of the city’s forward thinking when it comes to outdoor recreation.

For some of us, though, Sleepy Hole Park is still the first place we think of when someone says, “Hey, let’s go to the park!”