Dorey Park more than just picnic worthy

April 11, 2012 · 2 minute read

I don’t know about you, but what comes to mind when I think of a city or county park is a few acres, several picnic tables, a kids’ playground, and maybe couple of odious pit toilets. At least that’s what I thought until a couple of weeks ago.

Laurie and I had just finished running an errand in southeastern Henrico County, an area we rarely go to, when we saw a directional sign for Dorey Park. Not knowing what to expect, but having yet to do our daily walk, we decided to check it out. It was a nice Sunday afternoon and, as we drove in, the crowds of people covering the large expanse of soccer fields conformed to my preconceived notions. Yet, as we drove further in, we passed by baseball and softball fields, a rehabilitated barn/recreation center, horse ring, and tennis courts to park beside scenic Dorey Lake.

The five-acre lake is part of the state’s Urban Fishing Program and more than a dozen anglers were trying their luck from the shoreline and the handicapped-accessible fishing pier. Several love-struck couples were strolling hand-in-hand, stopping every so often to gaze into each other’s eyes or watch the resident ducks go about their daily lives.

Unsure of where to go, we walked to the far side of the lake and that’s when we found the two-mile system of interconnecting pathways. Covered in gravel and resembling more of a service road than a hiking trail, the pathway, nonetheless, enabled us to leave the crowds behind and to enter the woods and pass turnoffs to a disc golf course and a mountain biking route.

Have you ever wondered what red maple, pignut hickory, sweet gum, or white oak look like? These trees, and others, are labeled, permitting you to make close-up observations of the texture of their barks, shapes of leaves, kind of seeds or flowers, and other identifiable characteristics. One of the labeled trees, holly, is very shade tolerant and is often found flourishing, as it is here, under the canopy of an older and taller forest. Unlike many other trees, hollies are either male or female—thus, they must be in proximity to each other for the female to bear fruit. The berries, which turn bright red in the fall, are a favorite winter food for birds and deer. Wild turkeys are sometimes seen feeding high up in the trees as well as on berries that have fallen to the ground.

Just before coming to the ball fields, the trail system circles back to the lake. As we walked along the shoreline, Laurie and I commented that, like Cheswick Park on the other end of Henrico County that I wrote about a few weeks ago, it’s a good thing that governments were willing to put forth expenditures several decades ago so that today’s urban residents can still make a quick escape into the woods. 

Getting there: Take I-64 Exit 195, drive 3.5 miles on South Laburnum Ave, turn left onto Darbytown Road and continue 1.3 miles to the park.