Preserving Catawba County's Natural Heritage
Catawba County Parks is a division of Catawba County Planning, Parks and Development. Started in 1999, the Catawba County Parks division is relatively young and currently operates four parks (Bakers Mountain, Mountain Creek, Riverbend and St. Stephens).
Both Riverbend and Bakers Mountain were created using matching fund grants from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF). The grants enabled the County to build and promote these recreational spaces using a 50% grant match, which reduced the financial burden to the local tax base.
Bakers Mountain Park was opened in 2002, preserving 189 acres on Catawba County’s most prominent point and the location of the County’s largest mature forest. Located in the western part of the County on Bakers Mountain Road, just off Old Shelby Road, the diverse vegetation, pristine streams and terrain is very similar to that of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains.
Mountain Creek Park was opened in 2022. Located on the northwestern tip of Lake Norman in Sherrills Ford, this 606-acre park features an extensive 19.52-mile multi-use trail network designed to optimize mountain biking and a host of other amenities including an adventure playground, a mountain bike skills course and tool stations, pickleball courts, a dog park, fishing pier, canoe/kayak launch, an outdoor classroom, an observation platform, picnic shelters and a paved ADA-accessible trail that winds through a quiet cove. Mountain biking is at the heart of Mountain Creek Park. Along with dedicated bike-only trails and endless route combinations, Mountain Creek Park is destined to quickly become a regional mountain biking destination.
Riverbend Park, which was the County’s first park, is located in the northern part of the County on Hwy. 16, east of Oxford Dam along the Catawba River. This 690-acre park not only protects the watershed for the Catawba River, it also provides recreation opportunities.
St. Stephens Park is a 9.1-acre park located adjacent to Clyde Campbell Elementary School, at the end of 36th Ave. SE near Hickory. In 1979, prior to the formation of the Catawba County Parks division, St. Stephens Recreational Corporation requested assistance from Catawba County to serve as a grant recipient for a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant. Upon approval of the $75,000 grant, the 9.1 acre tract was deeded to Catawba County. A pool, bathhouse and picnic shelter were constructed, and St. Stephens Recreational Corporation operated and maintained the pool and park. In 1985, St. Stephens Recreational Corporation was dissolved and the City of Hickory assumed responsibility for park operations until the summer of 2005, when the pool needed extensive repairs. The County renovated the park and reopened it in December of 2008 as a passive park.