There is freshly poured white sand on the beach and nostalgia is in the air at Cardinal Park, a newly reopened recreational facility in Pinebluff that has served generations of families.
Established in the early 1960s by the late Felton Capel, Sr. and his wife, Jean, the privately-run park offered lake swimming, fishing and vast picnic areas. Mitch Capel, Felton and Jean’s son, is the guiding force behind the rebirth of the Cardinal Park, Motel and Recreation Center. “It is a beautiful park.”
He recently held a soft-opening for family and friends that attracted hundreds of well-wishers to spend the day.
Four years ago, Mitch moved back to Moore County to care for his parents. No matter where he went in town, people would approach him to ask about the park and when it would open again.
Finally this past spring he stopped by the park for some basic yard upkeep and decided it was a now-or-never situation.
“Mother Nature was taking over. I had to either let it go or figure out a way to make it work,” he said.
When he rallied his family and friends, the response was immediate and overwhelming: everybody wanted to be a part of the park’s revitalization.
The 36-acre rolling parkland includes a 9-acre spring-fed lake, four picnic shelters that can also be rented for private events, and areas for basketball, volleyball, horseshoes and cornhole. A new section of land across from the main beach has been cleared as a future campground.
Capel’s longtime friend John Hamlet, a skilled carpenter, is designing camper-friendly tree houses that will be rented out and also helping him rebuild the many picnic tables and benches that dot the property.
Capel is optimistic and inspired by what he sees each day. “I am doing this to honor my father. It is his legacy. I can visualize what he saw when he created this park,” he said.
Looking ahead, he plans to reopen the concession stand on weekends, once permits are in-hand, and expand the 5-room motel with a commercial kitchen. The campground area will eventually have hook-ups for RVs.
“I hope to have live music on the lake and maybe get a big movie screen. We will see,” he said.
“There have been so many great people that have come through here and now they and their children are coming back,” he added. “It is a generational thing. People want their children to enjoy the same experiences they did, and this is a great place to get kids outside.”
Cardinal Park is located on U.S. 1 south, at 129 Cardinal Park Drive in Pinebluff. The facility is open everyday 9 a.m. to dark. A lifeguard is on-duty at the lake beach swimming area on summer weekends.
Day use fees are $10 per person, and $5 for children under five years, and include all fishing privileges and all other on-site activities. For more detailed information, contact Cardinal Park at (910) 494-0696.
(Original story by Laura Douglass, The Pilot)