Tim Hess, a new Charlottesville resident and landscape architect, reports on his table's park plan

Evening meetings approaching the winter holidays can be a difficult time for any group to engage the public. However, when it comes to the future of the eastern portion of Charlottesville’s McIntire Park , the turnout at Monday’s planning workshop suggests there is tremendous interest, no matter the season.

About 100 people met with the city’s Parks & Recreation Department representatives to begin the process of narrowing down the options for the park’s new master plan. The “planning charette” had participants break into 11 groups to discuss and illustrate their ideas on an outline map.

“We are going to see what the community thinks about potential land uses in the park,” said Brian Daly , Parks & Rec director. “I am excited about tonight. We have had a lot comments and it’s the community’s decision about how this land will get used.”

In October 10 organizations and numerous residents representing bikers, hikers, skateboarders, golfers, botanical garden fans and others made their pitch for the future of the part of McIntire Park lying east of the railroad tracks.

The area is currently home to a nine-hole golf course, a wading pool and the McIntire Skate Park. The park’s Dogwood 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.

Public comments on park usage preferences received by city staff as of Dec 9 (excludes a petition from botanical garden supporters)

Use matrix prepared by Charlottesville Parks & Recreation staff

City staff shared maps, makers and land use shapes for the citizen planners to program 61 available acres. A matrix of potential uses outlined 15 proposals identified in past public comment opportunities.

“We are going to let you pretend you are park planners tonight,” said the city’s trail planner, Chris Gensic, to the audience. “Our goal is a concept plan…. Put the uses down in the park in roughly the scale and location that you would like to see them, we’ll do design work in the future.”

Dan Rosensweig is a member of the Charlottesville Planning Commission and serves on the Charlottesville Parks & Recreation Advisory Board .

“I am encouraged by the turnout,” Rosensweig said in an interview. “It speaks well of the effort the park’s staff have put into community outreach and to making this a fair process that engages the community.”

Kathleen M. Galvin , elected last month as a new member of the Charlottesville City Council , is an architect with significant public planning experience.

“Charettes are a very good approach,” Galvin said. “I hope we will get design input from both the professional and citizen levels, but charettes are supposed to be for the public and professionals are supposed to wait.”

With the majority of the maps submitted Monday seeking to share uses as diverse as a botanical garden and a golf course, the city staff may find that the ball has been hit back to them to make sense of competing priorities.

“Charettes are a funny thing and even drawing a line on the map can raise expectations unrealistically,” Rosensweig said. “On the other hand, with such a large variety of input, you will start to see commonalities that will inform a really great master plan.”

Rosensweig sees that challenge as an opportunity to build a better park.

“A really exciting challenge and opportunity for us is to figure out how we may be able to harmoniously integrate a variety of uses in the park,” Rosensweig concluded.

City staff collected the 11 citizen maps with their recommended uses and will bring the results, and any consensus, back to the next planning meeting, scheduled for Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at Charlottesville High School.

For more information regarding the meeting or McIntire Park, visit www.charlottesville.org/mcintirepark . Citizens may also call 970-3610 for more information.