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 three parks (Bakers Mountain, Riverbend and St. Stephens) with a fourth park (Mountain Creek) in development.
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.
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 689-acre park not only protects the watershed for the Catawba River, it also provides recreation opportunities.
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.
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.