Nike Park promotes local history

Published 5:55 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

By Ella Bronaugh


From Naval Station Norfolk to the Portsmouth shipyard, Hampton Roads is famous for its military presence, and Carrollton is no exception.

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Nike Park, located in Carrollton, was an active Nike-Ajax Missile Site during the Cold War from 1954 to 1961. It was a U.S. Army artillery battery, housing a unit of around 140 men, in charge of assembling and refueling missiles as well as training men, preparing for launching a counterattack against incoming Soviet airplanes. Nike Park was one of eight bases surrounding the Hampton Roads area that served to protect the heavy military presence in the area. Though a missile was never launched from the missile site, the base made a significant impact on the surrounding area and its people.

Since then, Nike Park has been meticulously preserved by the Isle of Wight County Parks and Recreation Department. All of the original buildings from the base besides a small gun shack remain at the park.

“This base is one of the most complete Nike-Ajax bases in the area,” said Albert Burckard, an Isle of Wight County Museum volunteer of 12 years. “What’s cool about this base is that all of this is original. These are the original sinks, showers and mirrors. That’s what’s wonderful about preserving this.”

Burckard has made it his personal mission to ensure Nike Park remains exactly as the Navy left it when it turned the site over the county in 1970.

“I want to recount the significance and importance of these buildings,” Burckard said. “I want to let as many people know about the history of the park as possible.”

The Parks and Recreation Department, in an effort to preserve the historical integrity of the site, decided to repurpose the buildings instead of bulldozing the site as originally intended. Jennifer England, director of the Isle of Wight County Museum, says the base’s repurposing has given the county a way to continue to preserve history.

“The county repurposed the base for the Parks and Rec programs because, since it’s being used, it’s being maintained,” England said in an interview. “Every building on the base is still being used today. Through its repurposing, we can hang on to history and continue to appreciate it.”

Nike Park hosts several programs year-round, including adult softball, spring and fall soccer, summer camps, classes such as dog obedience training and more. Nike Park’s programs have become increasingly popular over the years, and the community’s continued support helps the Parks and Rec Department continue preserving the historical site as well as provide activities and programs for locals. David Smith, Isle of Wight County Parks and Recreation director, sees the park as a resource for the area.

“The park is definitely gaining in popularity,” Smith said. “I think it’s a great place to spend an afternoon, an evening or an early morning, and we welcome people from Carrollton and beyond to come use the park. I think you could spend a great day here.”

The Carrollton community is encouraged to take advantage of this historical site by learning about its history.

“It’s fascinating knowing what happened here in the 1950s and 1960s,” England said.

In this spirit, the Isle of Wight County Museum holds several walking tours of Nike Park throughout the year, which includes a 45-minute slideshow and short tour around the site led by Burckard, to educate locals about its history.

For more information on Nike Park or its guided tours, contact 356-1223 or visit