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Cherry Park at 25 still popular stop for all ages

When Benson Laney's mother tells him it's time to leave Cherry Park, the reaction is usually the same: tears and sobs.

"He always cries when it's time to go," Mandy Laney, the 2-year-old's mother, said.

She and Benson have visited the park at least once a week since they moved to the area a few months ago. Originally from Lancaster, Laney had heard about Cherry Park and began bringing her son there.

On Wednesday morning, Benson was taking a trip down one of the slides at the park

"It's his favorite of all the parks around," Laney said. "He likes the playground."

After she has her second child later this year, Laney said she plans to visit the trails at the park to get into shape.

She and Benson are just two of the roughly 360,000 people each year who visit Cherry Park, on Cherry Road in Rock Hill.

Cherry Park opened in 1985, exactly 25 years ago today. The 68-acre facility has five lighted softball and baseball fields, four additional fields, five multipurpose fields, 1.5 miles of walking and biking trails, picnic shelters, a control tower and playgrounds, becoming a draw for residents and visitors from across the nation.

The park has generated more than $120 million since its opening, city officials say, and has hosted tournaments for the National Softball Association since 1986.

But locals say they just enjoy the facility, the result of a vision former city leaders had in the mid-1980s - not just a ball field, but a highly equipped athletic facility in a park-like setting, with walking and biking paths as the beginning of a trail system.

The park's playgrounds keep 16-month-old Kaleb and 4-year-old Braden Donaldson entertained, their parents say.

Jamie and Kristie Donaldson bring their two boys to the park a few times a week, driving to Rock Hill from Chester.

It's especially helpful when Kristie Donaldson has to do some shopping.

"We come every time we're in Rock Hill so they can run off energy and I can get something done," she said, watching Kaleb run across a swinging bridge. "It's the cleanest park in Rock Hill."

For others, the park's fields and trails are good for exercise.

Ashley Millar visits Cherry Park's trail a few times a week. With her headphones on, she walks around the park in the mornings.

"I like it more in the summer because of the shade," she said. "In the winter, I like to be out in the sun."

Darlene and Steve Moore use the trails as well to walk their "granddaughter," a dog named Fiona.

"Sometimes we walk her, and sometimes she walks us," Steve Moore joked.

But even when they don't have Fiona, Darlene Moore said the two enjoy walking the trail.

"We like to get out and exercise," she said. "We love it.

"My favorite part is the trees. It's really beautiful here in the fall."

Want to go?

What: Cherry Park's 25th anniversary celebration

When: 6 to 8 p.m. today

Where: Cherry Park, 1466 Cherry Road, Rock Hill

Featuring: Games, activities, music, food and memorabilia

Information: rockhillrocks.com or 803-329-5620

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