For close to a year the Charlottesville Department of Parks and Recreation has been working to create a plan for what the eastern side of McIntire Park will look like following the completion of the Meadow Creek Parkway.
The plan Charlottesville City Council viewed July 16 featured an improved Dogwood Vietnam Memorial and a relocated skate park. In addition, it moved the wading pool from its current location and added a soccer field.
However, many of the comments shared during the meeting centered on the park’s inexpensive golf course and the proposed botanical gardens.
“Golf benefits just a few hundred people a year, while passive parks and educational uses of a botanical garden might use this space a thousand times,” said city resident Elly Tucker.
The renovation of the park calls for the golf course to be removed from the park by 2020, but makes no explicit plans for relocation. To many, losing the public course would be detrimental to the community.
“I encourage you to find a place for inexpensive golf and youth golf before you force it out of McIntire,” said Susie Hoffman, a city resident whose son plays at McIntire through The First Tee program. “This would be a great loss to the community.”
Organizations such as The First Tee of Charlottesville use the course to teach skills and values to community youths through golf. In response, some at the meeting recommended that Meadowcreek Golf Course at Pen Park be made more available for student programs and affordable golf.
“The Parks Department and maybe some community members should get together and talk about using Meadowcreek Golf Course in a different way,” suggested city resident and former mayor Virginia Daugherty. “There could be a day or two … when the rates are lower. We pay for other things for our low-income community and we can do that too.”
Others noted that because of its pastoral nature the site can be used for other activities, such as the kite day that was held on April 14, without having to remove the course.
“The golf course is quite flexible,” said Frank Gray, who is the custodian of the park. “Several people do come out to jog or walk their dogs. They’re aware of people playing golf, we have not had any incidents so far and I don’t think we’re likely to have any.”
City Council members agreed that the golf was a beneficial program to the community, but were adamant that it would be phased out of the park in favor of open space and the botanical gardens.
“There ought to be a place where you don’t have to hit [a] ball or hit each other,” said Mayor Satyendra Huja, in support of a passive recreation space. “You’d just be able to walk peacefully … and I think the idea of a botanical garden fits into that general idea.”
Although members of the council were in agreement for the overall goal, they took issue with various aspects of the master plan as it was presented to them. Members questioned the position of the skate park and soccer fields, finding them poorly placed.
“[The skate park] feels also to me a little bit tacked on, not entirely in keeping with the spirit of passive use,” said Councilor Dave Norris following the public comment. “Let’s not rule out the idea that there might be a better home for the skate park than the east side of McIntire Park.”
Another issue raised both by the public and by Council, was accessibility for the park. Currently, there are no available public transportation routes to the park and parking spaces are limited.
“Why not consider shared parking?” recommended Councilor Kathy Galvin, expressing her reluctance to build more parking in the area and noting the park’s proximity to existing parking areas. “There’s plenty of asphalt all over the place that we could put our cars on. Please don’t take up the remaining green spaces to do that.”
Other observations included the lack of a water fixture which was seen as essential to a park.
“One thing that we don’t have in this park is water,” noted Councilor Kristin Szakos. “I think parks are a lot more pleasant if there’s water involved.”
The plan was returned to the Parks and Recreation Department for further refinement and will be brought back to a future City Council meeting for approval.
Council also noted that the final plan should be implemented by a recognized architectural firm.
“We need to have … not only [a] detailed design, but a great design of the park,” said Huja. “And that needs to be done holistically … we need to think of the whole park as a design.”