New plan for Azalea Park gets Planning Commission approval

The Charlottesville Planning Commission endorsed a new master plan for the city’s Azalea Park at their meeting Tuesday.  The park, which is located in the southwest corner of Charlottesville on Old Lynchburg Road, will be the next in a series of city parks to get a makeover.

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Since last fall, city staff have been developing a master plan for Azalea Park with input from the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association (FSNA). Parks planner Chris Gensic said the concept was to improve the park without changing its scale.

Download text of draft master plan for Azalea Park

Many of the park’s amenities will be shifted somewhat. The existing playground will be moved to the current location of the dog park, next to the softball field. The enclosed dog park will be relocated into what is now open space.

The driveway into the park will now terminate in a cul-de-sac, and parking will entirely shift to the front of the park and along the driveway. A gate that automatically locks at the park’s closing time will also be installed.

“We wanted to make sure we created a secure park,” Gensic said.

The community garden will stay where it is.  Bathrooms will be installed at an existing building currently used for storage and concession sales.

Some questions about the future of the park remain. There is a possibility of including a small bike track, but the city may decide to build this at Riverview Park instead. The parks department also wants to leave open the option of lighting the dog park so it could be used at night-time year-round.

“We did not show lights on the dog park on the rendering, but we did mention it’s a possibility [in the text of the plan]” said parks director Brian Daly.

Planning Commissioner Bill Emory said that lighting the dog park would be a “terrible idea.”

“The idea of having those lights back there backing up to houses, I think it’s a terrible precedent,” Emory said.

Click image for a .PDF of the draft master plan

Gensic said some FSNA members support the lights in the dog park because it will add one more layer of security. Most of the city’s parks are open until 9:00 PM.

Another new feature will be a paved trail to connect the park to Monte Vista Avenue. This will serve as a way to take bicycle traffic off of Old Lynchburg Road by providing a safe commuting option.

“While generally I am not in favor of hardscape over pervious surface, in a situation like this, I’m all for a paved trail because it provides an off-road bicycle linkage that doesn’t require a mountain bike,” said Planning Commission Chairman Jason Pearson.

Commissioner John Santoski, a former FSNA president, asked if there was room to place a rectangular playing field in the open space being left open for the potential bike track. Gensic said there was likely enough space for people to play casually, but not enough room for a regulation playing field.

Commissioner Genevieve Keller said she was pleased at the results of the planning process.

“This is a park that my family used to use a lot and I think it’s a very sensitive reworking and it makes a lot of sense,” Keller said.

The plan will now go before City Council on June 7. The City has set aside $750,000 for construction funds in the capital improvement program.  Construction on some elements of the park renovation could begin as early as fall 2011, according to Daly.

The city also has completed renovations on another park in the Fifeville neighborhood. This weekend, the city will formally reopen Forest Hills Park, which now features a spray ground, a new playground, and a new pavilion. A wading pool was removed as part of the $1.4 million upgrade.