UPDATE July 2015: This private park is maintained by a family, not the city. Due to problems with park maintenance, it is preferable to call ahead before meeting your play group or having a picnic here.
Gilwood Park is “a park dedicated to the ones that lost their life in the April 27th, 2011 tornadoes from Madison and Limestone Counties in Alabama.” It began as a memorial to Shannon Gail Rudd Sampson, the daughter of Cindy and Ken Mitchell but grew into a private park to honor all those lost. It’s nestled in a neighborhood in Madison, off of Wall Triana Boulevard.
This is a great place to bring the kids and a packed lunch and enjoy some peaceful playtime. The first things you might notice about this park are the extra large animal statues — there’s a gorilla, horse, elephant, giraffe, cow, zebra, panda, and Ronald McDonald. You’ll also notice that the park isn’t huge, so it’s a great place to let the kids run around without having to worry about them running too far away.
It also offers a large covered pavilion with picnic tables, rocking chairs, swings, and table and chairs sets—plenty of seating and shade. Surrounding it is a variety of playground equipment, flowerbeds, and statues that have been donated. There is also a port-a-potty and trash cans.
Kids will enjoy all the great stuff to play on! The merry-go-rounds, fire truck, swings, see-saw, airplane, jungle gym, school bus, race car, train, bridge and slides offer something for everyone. And almost everything has grass underneath it.
If you visit the park, you’ll see a donation box beside the pavilion. Upkeep of the park costs about $250 a month, said owner Cindy Mitchell. This covers the cost of insurance and port-a-potty rental and they rely on donations to keep it going. “In the beginning, we always got donations,” she said. “But now, we may get $0.75.” So if enjoy the park, please consider leaving a donation. Because it is a private memorial park, it’s very important your family follows the park’s rules – basic ones respecting the property & installations – and clean up after any picnics you might bring along.
Occasionally, the park has to be closed in order to mow and take care of the grounds. It’s always a good idea to check their Facebook page or call ahead of time to make sure they are open before you go.