|The Parks Division
the Community Process
exhibit at the African-American Cultural Arts Festival
The first community meetings focused on creating a comprehensive vision for the City's park system, which is known as "The City as a Park."
The community process for Washington Park began during The City as a Park master plan. Washington Park now has its own steering committee, which is comprised of City staff and design teams and is led by Bill Letteri. The committee's goal is to coordinate the project from beginning to end. Washington Park also has a working committee made up of members from the surrounding neighborhoods, community leaders, and City staff. The working committee has met on a regular basis for over a year and a half to advise the steering committee and park designers. In addition, community meetings are held to ensure that as many citizens as possible have the opportunity to comment.
Washington Park is considered a neighborhood park and is important to the residents who reside around it. Working committee member Ann Majewski remembers attending the very first community meeting on Washington Park after she read about it in a local paper. "I used to take my kids to the park playground when they were little and we would picnic on the hill under the big old oak trees," stated Ms. Majewski. "As my kids got older I took them swimming. I still enjoy simply walking through the park to watch birds." Majewski believes that the process has been very inclusive; seeking out and involving the many distinct neighborhoods that surround and use the park.
Joy Johnson is another member of the working committee who has strong ties to Washington park. As a teenager, one of her first summer jobs was as an aide to recreation staff at the park. She recalls that all the neighborhood kids would hang out in the park during the summer. Talent shows were staged and local bands would compete against each other in the semi-annual "Battle of the Bands." Unfortunately, this event was phased out because of the rowdiness it generated. Ms. Johnson's interest in the redevelopment of Washington Park was piqued when she learn that there was interest in moving the park's pool, which was the only facility available for African Americans during her youth. "I missed the first series of meetings for the City as a Park master plan," said Ms. Johnson, "but when it came time to do Washington I decided it was time to give something back to the park."
Another individual who feels strongly about the park and its pool is Nancy Bowen. Growing up in Charlottesville, she remembers being told as a child that she could not go to Washington Park, because it was the "colored" park. "I just thought there were some cool things in the park and wanted to go," remembers Ms. Bowen. "Instead we went to McIntire Park, where I remember the big swings and picnic tables." Years later as a young mother, Bowen would make a point of visiting a different city park every Friday with her children. Her love and interest in Washington Park grew from these outings and was firmly secured when the pool at Washington Park become the home of the City of Charlottesville's Swim team nine years ago.
That first summer the team signed up 14 children. Now the team regularly signs up over 100 kids each summer. "Our team has a very diverse makeup and we encourage that diversity," Bowen stated. "If the pool were moved out of the neighborhood, it would prevent the local kids from participating and we would lose that diversity." Even though Ms. Bowen's primary interest is obtaining a top-rate pool facility, she still considers Washington Park a neighborhood park and is glad to have had the opportunity to serve on the working committee.
The purpose of the working committee meetings is to facilitate communication and ensure that all views are heard and discussed. It is perfectly normal for values and perspectives to vary within the group. At first there was some tension between the different interest groups working on Washington Park's redevelopment. "It bothered me when people talked about involving the community and didn't include me," said pool advocate Ms. Bowen. "I am part of the community... I can walk to Washington Park. After all, it is the closest park to my house." While there are still occasional disagreements about some aspects of the park, Bowen agrees that the working committee has overcome their initial concerns about each other and have formed a cohesive group.
The working committee members have worked hard to ensure that Washington Park becomes a place in which visitors will not only feel safe, but also will enjoy and use. "A public spot is the common bond between inhabitants of a city," said Ms. Majewski. "Our desire to create a green and beautiful place in the center of our diverse neighborhoods was the impetus to work together for the good of the whole park." The Washington Park process has included many different people with unique perspectives. All involved agree that they were fortunate to have met and worked with each other as well as having the pleasure and responsibility of shaping their community.
2001 Washington Park Home Page
|original 1998 site design by Kay Frazier, Judy Bias, Rosalind Collins, Stephen Pleasants
|last updated 3/8/01 by Stowe Keller