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January 23, 2012

City shares designs for McIntire Park in attempt to balance competing uses

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DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, January 23, 2012

The city of Charlottesville unveiled three design concepts for the eastern portion of McIntire Park at a public meeting attended by almost 90 residents Monday.

20120123-McIntirePark

In September, city staff kicked off the public input process, saying the 61 available acres in the park were a “blank slate.” In December, more than 100 citizens put pen to paper in a planning workshop to suggest how activities as varied as golf, skateboarding, soccer and botanical gardens could be accommodated.

The three design concepts unveiled by city staff shared a lot of common ground. All accommodated some degree of golf, botanical gardens, a relocated skate park, the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial, perimeter trails and a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks to the park’s western side. Two of the three concepts include a wading pool and a rectangular athletic field.

Shown plans that would share McIntire Park between golf and garden enthusiasts, local golf coach Leonard Taylor said his sport should continue to take priority.

“The First Tee program needs a golf course, and there is already a course there and they don’t have to spend a nickel,” Taylor said. “The uses in the park can be balanced to some degree, but you can’t let it get out of hand.”

City Councilor Kathy Galvin challenged the goal of designing for both uses.

“In the three concepts that you have presented to us, you have a very logical, rational illustration of how you cannot make these two big programs co-exist,” Galvin said. “What you’ve demonstrated is how the golf course can work, and what happens is you have demonstrated that the botanical garden and some of the other uses really don’t work.”

Galvin encouraged another design effort showing what a park dominated by the botanical garden would look like.
McIntire Park Concept Diagrams - January 23, 2012 (Click to view larger images)
20120123-McIntirePark_Conce
20120123-McIntirePark_Conc2
20120123-McIntirePark_Conc3
Concept 1:
Received about 4 votes

Concept 2:
Received about 3 votes

Concept 3:
Received about 28 votes

The area is currently home to a nine-hole golf course, a wading pool and the McIntire Skate Park. The park’s Vietnam Memorial is expected to remain in its current location. The Meadow Creek Parkway, and its interchange with the U.S. 250 Bypass, are also planned for this area of the park.

Linda Seaman is a board member of the McIntire Botanical Garden project, which has developed its own conceptual plan for the park.

20120123-McIntirePark_Conc4

The design concept favored by supporters of the
McIntire Botanical Garden. 
It received 34 votes (green circles)

“The implication has been that all things should have a place in McIntire Park,” Seaman said. “We have been trying to get them to recognize that some of these concepts should just be [narrowed down to] one thing, otherwise it might not be a good use of that land.”

City School Board member Jennifer McKeever serves on the Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

“I think it’s been a good process,” McKeever said. “So many people’s voices are being heard.”

“For example, the people that came out to support the skate park really made a difference,” McKeever said about the previous meetings. “The possibility that the skate park will remain in McIntire Park is much more likely as a result.”

City Parks & Recreation Director Brian Daly said that in addition to the expertise of the public and his staff, the project has been helped along from the beginning by a local landscape architecture firm.

“Every master plan we have done in my tenure, except one small one done in-house, has had some level of involvement by professional architects,” Daly said.

“I am a firm believer that we as a staff, as the public stewards, need to really engage the community about how they want the parkland to be used,” Daly said. “That’s why we have been leading the public process, but there comes a time for the landscape architecture firm to get more involved.”

John Schmidt is the landscape architect from Land Planning & Design Associates hired by the city for the project and he presented the three design concepts to the audience.

“We are trying to keep the momentum going from the [December] meeting,” Schmidt said. “These are only design diagrams. We had time to think about the uses and how they fit into the land area.”

Daly said the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board would hold a public hearing on the concepts in March. That group will advise the city planning commission before the City Council holds its own public hearing and makes a final decision later this year.

McKeever said she would be keeping an open mind throughout the discussion.

“The fix is not in,” McKeever said. “In my mind there is no one clear best idea.”

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