Community members review plans for McIntire Park

Community members had another chance last week to provide feedback on the new design for the eastern side of McIntire Park.

“We are looking for comment on the last phase of the design,” Charlottesville Parks and Recreation department director Brian Daly said at an open house hosted by the department Thursday. “This is an evolutionary process and represents some comments we received from City Council in December.”

A master plan approved by the City Council in 2012 allows for several new amenities, all of which were displayed at the open house. The overall landscape plan includes trails, parking, restored streams, entrances, pavilions, a skate park and a botanical garden.

“The reactions so far have been almost overwhelmingly very positive,” Daly said.

Steve Kelly, an architect with Mahan Rykiel hired to design the park, explained minor changes made to the design since a community presentation in September.

The park will continue to house the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial, but the new plan moves a multi-use trail so cyclists will not ride through the memorial area during events.

Kelly said with the new trail placement, people can interact with the memorial but will not have to go through it every time.

Park and trail planner Chris Gensic said the primary goal now is to get as many different types of users in the park as possible.

“We want people to be able to fly their kite, walk their dog, ride their bike or just sit and stare at the sky, which is what the bulk of the park allows for,” he said.

Gensic said details of other amenities such as a visitor centers and plant collections can be built on over several years and that the McIntire Botanical Garden is something that could be finished in the next three or four years.

Golf will be phased out of the park by the end of 2016. Kelly said his group wanted to keep the course’s holes as open play areas.

“We wanted to use nature as play opposed to equipment as play,” he said. “The botanical garden is only eight acres of the park but we want the whole park to have the botanical garden feel.”

Local resident Keith Maupin said he likes that the design is more environmentally focused rather than equipment focused.

“Charlottesville needs these kinds of places because little by little they are dwindling away all the forest areas that used to be here,” he said.

Gensic said that because 80 percent of the park is left alone, maintenance costs will be lower.

The skate park area will be a multi-purpose park that is expected to attract users from throughout the region.

“We can have bands and food trucks and a plethora of activities,” said recreation division manager Vic Garber. “It will be used to increase social interaction and activity.”

Garber said the skate park would be “wheel friendly” to include bicycling, rollerskating and scooters, in addition to skateboards.

Kelly discussed plans for better connecting the park to community-wide trail systems and the introduction of more water to various areas of the park.

“The existing stream is not working the way it needs to work, so we wanted to restore those streams and flatten them out, making water run slower and causing less erosion,” he said.

Daly said construction can begin once final designs are approved.

“First we want to open the park, establish all trail connections and have infrastructure at the north end of the park,” Daly said.

Construction for the rest of the east side of the park will be phased. The sequencing will be determined once cost estimates are established.

There were comment sheets for visitors to mark on the visuals what they liked or didn’t like.

“We will encapsulate those comments in the next report we take to City Council,” Daly said.

The final design for McIntire Park will be presented to the council March 16.