Sunday, January 25, 2009

Random, Slightly Obtuse Musings About...Park Planning

Imagine, if you will, a city park. For the sake of argument, let's call it the Gene Hillhouse Memorial Park.

In one corner of Hillhouse Park sits a picnic shelter that is occasionally used for birthday parties, family gatherings, etc. A small group of citizens has mobilized against a proposed plan to relocate that picnic shelter to another part of town and replace it with something that would attract a wider swath of neighborhood residents to the park.

Meanwhile, a separate plan is afoot to build a Wal-Mart in the main body of Hillhouse Park. This plan would obviously cause irrevocable damage to the park, though it would not affect the picnic shelter site per se. For whatever reason, most of the picnic shelter advocates either support the new Wal-Mart or, at best, have not lifted a finger to stop it.

Question: given their endorsement (whether active or passive) of the idea of building a Wal-Mart in Hillhouse Park, would the picnic shelter proponents be justified in calling their group the "Hillhouse Park Preservation Committee"?

No, I’m sorry, they would not.

“It’s just semantics,” you might say. But words mean something. Or, they should.


If one were considering how a city might best design a park space for the benefit of the city and its residents, it seems that the following would be a useful metric:

* Preserve and enhance green space and promote the appreciation and enjoyment thereof;
* Incorporate a diverse array of recreational and fitness opportunities for the city's residents (considering, secondarily, the needs of residents from outlying jurisdictions);
* Encourage community;
* Strike a good balance between each of these goals; and,
* Pursue these goals in as cost-effective a manner as possible for the city's taxpayers.

Does that seem like a reasonable planning framework? If so, imagine how McIntire Park might take shape if this were the metric by which the City of Charlottesville were to plan for its future. Which of the options currently under consideration would advance these goals and might therefore make the cut? Which would not?

Just some food for thought.


The Road Runner said...

Rush Limbaugh once said, "words mean things."

Such deep musings...

Lonnie said...

You probably already know which options I'd support, but suffice it to say that I agree with your criteria.

Unfortuntely it takes great political will to challenge the threats to our greenspace, especially when it is justified under the cloak of "in-fill". It's too easy to see greenspace as merely "undeveloped", and thus the perfect location for a new road, athletic facility, etc.

Perhaps it would be useful to define as a community what we actually mean by greenspace, and clarify its value to us. Then, we need a ordinance requiring a no net loss of greenspace within the city, and find a way to make it binding.