As the HEAD CURATOR\TASTER AND EXPLORER of NC Eat & Play, Megan is thrilled to welcome Wyatt Richardson, Leland’s Operations Services Director. They discuss what’s happening in the Town of Leland and its exciting, upcoming holiday event, Leland in Lights.
Meet Wyatt, Leland’s Operations Services Director
Born and raised in Durham, NC, Wyatt has been a resident in the Town of Leland for about three years now and just loves the town’s culture. Wyatt has been in the Parks and Recreation Industry since 2006, beginning his career in Durham, NC. After serving Durham for 8 years, Wyatt relocated to Florida for 5 years, still working in the Parks and Recreation world. Once Wyatt and his wife decided to start a family, they knew that they wanted to return home to North Carolina. They love coastal living and Leland is the perfect location for them!
Wyatt is Leland’s Operations Services Director and oversees the two main divisions; Parks and Recreation and Operations and Maintenance. He leads and guides a talented team of individuals that implement strategic long-range visioning for the department. This includes overseeing The Cultural Arts Center in town, three developed parks, as well as three undeveloped parks that they will be building into their portfolio moving forward. You can find them running programs, summer camps, large-scale events and so much more on a daily basis. Those are the best moments for Wyatt; connecting and engaging with the community.
Included in Wyatt’s duties is the maintenance operations for the town’s 3 categories; fleet, facility, and grounds maintenance. They take care of the Cultural Arts Center, the Town Hall, 2 fire stations, the ground control facility among many others including green spaces and parks. They have about 80 vehicles in town so there’s no shortage of work to be done. Wyatt is thankful for having a great team to work with and a family-oriented organization.
While working for Durham previously, which has 70 plus parks and is on a much larger scale, Wyatt has definitely brought his skill and expertise to the Town of Leland. Leland is a growing community and is one of the fastest municipalities in town. It will take quite a while to grow to the size of Durham, but they are certainly experiencing a fast growth rate. The Town of Leland is a young town and has been incorporated since 1989. The Parks Department is only about twelve years old, so they are still growing and developing.
Since Wyatt and his family landed in Leland, he’s seen a tremendous amount of growth and opportunity and has witnessed Leland grow and flourish firsthand. Leland has managed to provide residents with a small-town feel, while still being close to the coast and larger cities such as Wilmington. “You can still pursue big-city amenities, while still having space and being more divided out” – Wyatt
Planning a trip to Leland? There’s something for everyone!
Wyatt’s Top Recommendations:
There’s plenty in Leland for the foodies! While Wyatt claims to not be the biggest foodie (Megan’s on a mission to change that) and has a self-proclaimed “generic” palette, he does have some favorite spots such as Papis Chicken, P.T.’s Olde Fashioned Grille, New Day Cafe, San Felipe Mexican Restaurant, Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar, and his wife’s favorite Cape Fear Seafood Company. For being a small town, Megan was excited to see that Leland has a great selection of local places to eat when she visited recently. The french toast at New Day Cafe is a favorite of Megan’s husband, Harrison. And, Pizzetta’s Pizzeria has some of the best NY Pizza Megan has had in NC so far. That’s impressive!
Wyatt, his wife, and 2 young children are avid outdoor enthusiasts. And Leland is full of outdoor activities to keep you busy! Westgate Nature Park is a great place for children to play and Megan’s son Dean just loved it! The park even has educational signage throughout that highlights information about animals, wildlife, and nature. It has a boardwalk that is used as an outdoor classroom and is excellent for wildlife viewing.
Cypress Cove Park is perfect for those that want to get out on the water. Don’t be thrown off by the entryway as this park has so much nature to offer visitors. It has a small fire pit, used for camp programs, ghost stories, and marshmallow roasts (yum!). You’ll also find a kayak and canoe launch, and a small fishing pier. This was definitely Harrison’s (Megan’s husband) favorite since he loves kayaking.
For the explorers, the park also offers some environmental kayak programs that will take you further out on the water. Full of wetlands, marshes, and a beautiful serene view, Cypress Cove Park is a must-visit place. You may even see a gator or two!
Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve is full of walking trails and is perfect for those looking to take a peaceful stroll. It’s such a quiet little oasis.
The Founders Park is the town’s first park and is especially popular among disc golf players. There, you can find a 9-hole disc golf course and it is one of the highest used amenities at the park. They host disc golf 101 courses and even host a few tournaments. There are plans to further expand the park with a large rubberized surface playground, a splash pad, a veteran’s memorial, a restroom shelter, a strategically positioned amphitheater, and more. They definitely have some big plans for the park!
Leland in Lights
Megan is excited to be partnering with the Town of Leland for their annual Leland in Lights Celebration. Leland in Lights is a grand illumination and a kick-off to the holiday season. It will definitely give you all of the holiday feels!
The forested section of the park is the perfect hub with trunk-wrapped trees, whimsically wrapped branches, mature oaks covered in beautiful, dangling lights, icicle lights, and glowing orbs. It sounds so magical!
Some of the favorite interactive displays you’ll find in the park are a snowman, Santa, kids having a snowball fight, and so much more. You can’t miss the old man winter display; a massive 40-foot plus tall focal point of the display! And, you can’t forget about the incredibly lighted Christmas trees.
There’s even a trail of singing trees! Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, anyone?!
The kickoff event is on Dec. 4th (A Day of Holiday Play), where you can enjoy warm treats and drinks and Santa, of course! Every kid will receive a candy cane and a small gift. Kids can even write a letter to Santa using an interactive art station and drop off their Christmas wish list in Santa’s mailbox. How cute is this, y’all?!
Their goal is to immerse visitors in Christmas and Leland in Lights does not disappoint!
Program for Dec 4th Kickoff
10 am – 3 pm The Cultural Arts Center Holiday Art Market will be open during the day for visitors.
Event Kickoff is 6 pm – 9 pm (depending on the crowd. No one will be turned away from Santa). Visit Santa’s Workshop and get a photo with Santa and much more!
Note: The Grande Illumination Light Display is not just a one-day event and will be on display for a 6-week period, through Jan. 10th. The lights come on every evening at dusk and stay on throughout the night. Visitors are welcome to walk through the light display. There’s plenty of great photo ops too! Please tag #lelandinlights so they can see your great photos!
This is a FREE event for all to enjoy! Parking is available along Town Hall Dr., Founder’s Park, or at the Town Hall parking lot.
Come make some lifelong memories at Leland in Lights!