Addition of archway at entrance to Dowdy Park tells a story

By on July 12, 2018

Mark Kasten with his creation. (Russ Lay)

If you’re a frequent visitor to Dowdy Park in Nags Head, you may have noticed that up until the beginning of July, the popular venue opened at the corner of U.S. 158 and Bonnett Street without an official entryway.

Now thanks to local architect Mark Kasten, the park sports a welcoming, aesthetically-pleasing entrance that fits like a glove with the modern décor and design of the space.

And it’s more than a mere gateway to Dowdy’s Park.

The new entrance is a sculpture. And like virtually all works of art, the it has a deeper meaning than serving as a mere entry point.

We asked Kasten to describe his sculpture and the thought process that went into it.

“I thought there were four opportunities or goals in designing an entrance to the park. First, to make a ‘doorway’ into the park.

“Next, I wanted to make use of playful and artistic shadows. The entrance also needed to function as an entrance sign, and finally, I wanted to allude to Nags Head’s connection to the sea.

“A ‘doorway’ can be any number of things that announce a passage into a new place.

“One way to do that is by passing through a structure, which was the starting point for the design. An arch has long been used to support the wall above an opening so an arch seemed to me to be a good form for a doorway.

“An entry can also be accentuated by the progression from inside to out, so I wanted to create some depth to the entry so that the experience or progression was more than just a quick walk through.

“The original design had 23 pieces. As the reality of cost and complexity became too much the number was reduced to 19, and then to its current 15.

“The idea of the arch pieces being closer together in the center creates a bit of tension as you progress through and the whole structure appears deeper because of the false perspective.

“The decision to use individual pieces was two-fold. By interweaving and changing distance from one another was an effort to create interesting shadows.

“The result is lacy crisscross patterns on the white concrete walkway throughout the day.

“The other reason for individual pieces is that they resemble whale ribs or a ship’s hull, referencing natural and manmade forms of the area.

“The last influence that dictated the form of the arch was the need for a sign. The one side of the arch was made wide to provide a base for lettering reminiscent of Dowdy Park.

“The next step was to determine the material.

“The choice of wood seemed to fit with the material palette of the park and fit with the illusion of boat ribs.

“Bending the wood was something I had limited experience with on a small scale. I had hoped to have the pieces fabricated by a glue laminated wood manufacturer, but cost determined that the only way to produce the structure I envisioned was to build it myself.

“So I then had to find a place to bend and glue sixteen-foot material as my living room was out of the question! I would like to thank Leeor and Israel Golasa for lending me a vacant space in the Central Square center right across the street from Dowdy Park.

“It was there that I constructed the forms on which the wood was bent, clamped, and glued.

“For four weeks I worked to make the pieces of the structure without totally irritating the owners and patrons of Ashtanga Yoga Studio on one side and Electric Beach Tanning on the other.

“Finally, the pieces were ready and I was very thankful to have James Cahoon, John Bailey, and Ben Cahoon to help erect the arch.

“Over a single weekend, we stood up all the pieces, with the most tedious part being the first three pieces during which the team was lucky to have the addition of Andy Garman to lift and hold the larger elements in place while they were secured together.

“Once all the pieces were erected and bolted together concrete footings were poured around the arch bases, locking them into place. Jimmy Summerell and Miles Kasten helped with getting the concrete work completed.

“Stone was installed to cover the concrete base and finally the letters were attached to the arch,” Kasten said.

Kasten also provided the Town of Nags Head’s goals for the arch in their “Call for Entries” when the town was soliciting local artists for the project.

Public Art Goals: The public art entrance will be the prominent feature welcoming visitors to the park. It will be located at the primary entrance to the park at the northwest corner of the site near the Bonnett Street/US 158 intersection There is no pre-defined concept for the entrance feature or specific limitation on the type of medium to be used. However, the committee would request that proposed design reflect the heritage of Nags Head and/or pay homage to the former Dowdy Amusement Park. There are two additional entrance features to be constructed in later phases; ideally, all three entrance features would be tied together by design in some fashion.

The proposed art piece shall be suitable for outdoor installation. The work of art must be a) capable of withstanding adverse weather conditions (high winds/130mph, salt tolerant, etc.); b) must withstand a high traffic environment; c) should take into consideration the safety of the audience; and d) artwork must be durable and require limited to no maintenance.

Kasten’s creation seems to dovetail perfectly with the new park entrance.

And now, as you walk through or admire it from a distance, you’ll know the story the artist wanted to convey. And perhaps appreciate the sculpture all the more.

Recent posts in this category

Recent posts in this category


  • Hank Hill

    How much did this cost? Seems like a very elaborate entrance. It’s fine if it didn’t cost the taxpayers anything, if it did it’s another waist of money.

    Thursday, Jul 12 @ 8:03 am
  • surf123

    If only we had Dowdy’s and not a crappy park.

    Thursday, Jul 12 @ 9:16 am
  • Windy Bill

    Hey! Lighten up. I’ll bet in the rare times when there is no traffic, you could lay there and hear the wind whistling thru the bones of the past.

    Thursday, Jul 12 @ 3:14 pm
  • Will

    LOL @ Hank. Always a naysayer in the group. He wins the prize. You realize a town park is funded by tax dollars, right? Making the town look nice is something most people (thankfully) are in favor of. If you think this is a waste of money just look at other cities. You’re free to leave at any time. We’ll enjoy the awesome park and nice entry sculpture!

    Thursday, Jul 12 @ 4:28 pm
  • Arnie

    @Will – he said it looks like a waist of money, not a waste of money.

    Friday, Jul 13 @ 9:41 am
  • waisted money

    For those complaining about “waisted” money: Yes it truly was!
    The Town received about 1.5 Million dollars in grants to fund the park.
    From OB Sentinel 1/23/18:

    The town purchased the old dilapidated Dowdy Amusement Park in 2013 and converted it into the municipal park. With a $750,000 grant from Trillium Health Resources and a $250,000 grant from the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, the town completed the first phase of the project last year and celebrated a grand opening in May.

    The town received three grants to help with the second phase of construction, from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau (OBVB) and N.C. Dominion Power. The grants are broken down with the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund at $250,000, OBVB at $226,750 and N.C. Dominion at $10,000.

    So they took a vacant, derelict lot and highly leveraged tax dollars with grant money to build a really nice place for our childern to play and to hold community events.

    What were those stupid government employees thinking?

    Friday, Jul 13 @ 3:20 pm
  • voidLess1

    Nags Head needs comprehensive community stormwater control.
    Nags Head needs crosswalk lights.
    Nags Head needs central sewer for public safety.
    Nags head WANTS Dowdy Park. Btw no mention of perpetual maintenance cost to the taxpayer.

    Saturday, Jul 21 @ 2:10 pm
  • Ruthless

    Lest we forget, the grant monies from these most wonderful benevolent organizations really came from “we the people”. Grants and gifts ain’t free, folks.

    Saturday, Jul 21 @ 8:25 pm