Image of McIntire Park conceptual design Credit: Credit: Mahan Rykiel

The Charlottesville City Council looked favorably on a new design for the eastern side of McIntire Park last week, but asked for revisions that would make two small ponds better fit into the landscape.

The council decided in September 2012 to close the municipal golf course that has been the park’s major feature for several decades. The master plan calls for trails, active play areas, pavilions and space for a botanical garden.

The new design also features a new skate park and will continue to house the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial.

“All of these different pieces, be it the skate park or the botanical garden, are all joined together by this beautiful passive open space,” said Councilor Kathy Galvin.

Steve Kelly, an architect with Mahan Rykiel, has been working to turn the master plan into a working blueprint.

“We have a botanical garden we need to provide space for,” Kelly said. “We needed the northern portion to be the more active zone, and the southern is intended to be the more passive zone.”

The design presented to the council also features two ponds that likely would need to have water piped into them because the Army Corps of Engineers no longer allows ponds to be created by damming streams.

“That had so many complications and issues and it may not be an appropriate solution,” Kelly said.

The design has gone through a public process guided by a citizen committee. The two ponds were included after a September open house. One councilor said she was surprised to see them.

“I have to say I’m a little dismayed to see this come to us with these big ponds that we’ve not seen before and they kind of came out of nowhere,” Councilor Kristin Szakos said. “It’s not that I’m anti-pond but the way they’ve come to me makes a little more hostile towards them.”

Szakos said she did not want the pond to take away space that would otherwise go to other park features. She was also concerned they might be hazardous to small children.

However, Mayor Satyendra Huja was adamant the park needs a pond.

“I can’t think of any city park with a botanical garden that doesn’t have a body of water,” Huja said.

Szakos said any water feature should come closer to reflecting natural conditions.

“If we do have more water, rather than have a lake that you might find in a different sort of area, [let’s] stay true in some way to the kind of water that might appear naturally in a place like this,” Szakos said.

Another engineer said that may prove challenging because of the prohibition on impounding streams.

“It is possible to do, but it’s just not all that feasible to do from a permitting standpoint,” said Gregor Patch, an engineer with the Timmons Group.

Patch also said it would take a lot of time to go through the process and the city would need to pay a large fee if more than 300 linear feet were to be impacted.

There is no cost estimate yet for the park plan, but the city’s draft capital improvement program anticipates spending $2.5 million on the project over the next five years.

Kelly also showed opportunities for where pavilions could be placed for picnics and other events. There also will be a variety of paths, some paved and some natural.

Most of the grass in the park is not native and will be replaced with a variety from a species from the Piedmont. There will be a “great lawn” in the middle of the park that Kelly said would be ideal for kite-flying or Frisbee throwing.

The council also was briefed on the design for the new skate park, which will be located in the southwest corner of McIntire’s east side

Brian Daly, director of city parks, said the design is the result of many months of work between staff and the local skating community.

“The conceptual design has morphed over the last several months and has moved in a direction that is very sensitive and intentional about how we fit the skate features into this portion of the park while protecting the grove of hardwood trees,” Daly said

The skate park was moved due to construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway interchange with U.S. 250. The area currently occupied by a temporary skate park will turn into a multi-use area for bike polo and roller derby.

“I wouldn’t even really call this a skate park,” Mike McIntyre, a designer with the firm Stantec, said of the temporary park. “I would call it a park you can skate in legally and not get arrested. It’s a wheel-friendly zone where the community can come in and enjoy it.”

Twelve trees will be removed to make way for the new skate park. A city arborist said 11 of them are diseased and would have been cut down anyway.

There is currently no cost estimate for the skate park.

“It will be a seven-figure project, there’s no question about that,” Daly said.

The council took no action but praised members of the skating community for participating in the creation of the plan.