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March 26, 2012

Charlottesville Parks Board takes input on McIntire Park’s future

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, March 26, 2012

Members of Charlottesville’s Parks and Recreation advisory board listened Monday as organizations and individuals presented their vision for the future of the eastern half of McIntire Park

The panel will make recommendations on the park’s master plan to City Council
 
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Option A (Click to enlarge)
“This is your chance to give comments to them so that they can, over the next 30 days, meet and discuss and recommend what they might come forward with,” said Chris Gensic, a city parks planner, in his remarks to a crowd assembled in the Buford Middle School auditorium. 
 
The 61 acres that make up the eastern half of the park are going through the city’s master planning process. The park’s use today is primarily for the McIntire Golf Course, which has lost two of its nine holes due to the construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway
 
Three concepts are under consideration. Two envision a park in which a smaller golf course shares land with passive recreation activities, such as a potential botanical garden. A third concept was introduced by supporters of a botanical garden that envisions the majority of the park being dedicated to that use. 
 
Advocates of a botanical garden said it was time for the city to move the golf course out to give others a chance to view sights currently only visible by golfers. 
 
“The city has looked at four master plans since 1972, and each one opened the park to a series of trails to connect parts of the park to each other as well as to connect the park to the city’s entire park system,” said Helen Flamini, the president of the nonprofit McIntire Park Botanical Garden. “Plans to move the nine-hole golf course have been in place since 1992 when a second municipal golf course was built at Pen Park.”
 
However, golf proponents said they were willing to share the park with other uses. 
 
“We need some of the park to continue the [youth golfing] program,” said Wayne Hall, the chairman of the First Tee of Charlottesville, a youth development program. 
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Option B (Click to enlarge)

Other supporters of First Tee said the program teaches children many of the qualities that come from the sport of golf, including integrity, self-reliance and trust. One man said it is the only sport where players serve as their own referee. 

 
“The golf course provides low-cost recreation to people of all incomes,” said Jim Moore of the McIntire Golf Course Player’s Group. “It is environmentally stable and requires no irrigation.”
 
Peter McIntosh, the vice president of McIntire Botanical Garden, said previous master plans called for a transitional period while the garden is established, allowing for a new home for the First Tee program. 
 
"We really have enough space at Pen Park to accommodate golf," McIntosh said.
 
Supporters of the garden and the golf course were not the only advocates who addressed the parks board. 
 
Bill Mueller of the Soccer Organization of Charlottesville-Albemarle said the park had space that could be used to address a lack of rectangular fields in the community. 
 
“Adding more playing fields is the best way to address this shortage,” Mueller said. He added that the park made a logical choice given the proximity to Charlottesville High School
 
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Option C (Click to enlarge)
Len Schoppa of the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation made the case for adequate trails in the park, regardless of what primary use is decided. 
 
“In the overall debate about whether we should use it for golf or a botanical garden, we do not want trails to be seen as the afterthought,” Schoppa said. 
 
Schoppa said he wanted paths to be at least 15 feet wide so bike commuters as well as pedestrians could use the park. 
 
John Cruickshank of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club called for no new buildings to be constructed in the park, except perhaps for maintenance buildings. He also said he did not favor any more parking spaces or athletic fields being built at McIntire. 
 
Seven groups and over 20 speakers made comments at the hearing. 
 
The parks and recreation board could not take a vote Monday because city code requires they wait 30 days before taking an action. That means they will likely not take action until their meeting in May. 
 
Another public hearing will be held before the Planning Commission later this spring, followed by action by the City Council. 
 

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