Having failed to reach an agreement with residents over parking inside Patterson Park, the Rawlings-Blake administration is now seeking citizen input on updating the park’s master plan.
More than a year after its plan to create 96 parking space and a loop road sparked a rebellion among park users, the mayor’s original idea of a master plan is again front and center, Councilman James B. Kraft told about 75 people last night.
Kraft called the decision to “scrap” the parking and paving issue as a way to make once-in-a-lifetime improvements to the park.
He said he has received a “commitment by the administration to pay attention to our work” and outlined a few long-term scenarios for Patterson Park.
Community Plan Rejected as Too Costly
Last fall, John Mariani, an architect and member of the Fells Prospect Community Association, proposed a way to reduce the number of parking spaces to 21, with 15 of them using the natural contour of the park to be situated below ground level.
Mariani’s plan would require some excavation and replacement of a retaining wall at the Virginia Baker Recreation Center.
It was approved by community associations and the park’s working group.
After last night’s meeting, Mariani told The Brew that the Department of Recreation and Parks priced his plan at about $500,000 and said they could not afford the expenditure as part of the planned $3 million renovation of the Baker Center.
Kraft said that after the rejection, he met with the agency and proposed a return to the “overall process” started in 2012 and a review the master plan.
He cited several ideas to improve the park last night, including:
• Moving the Baker Center to another location, possibly at the site of the present ice rink, “which has only two to four years left [of service],” Kraft said.
• Turning Linwood Avenue into a one-way street to permit diagonal parking alongside the park’s eastern perimeter.
• Making “urgently needed” improvements to the park’s interior lights, promenade and other walkways, and to improve the park entrances, especially at Eastern and Patterson Park avenues.
• Consider a conservancy or another financial model to underwrite permanent funding for park improvements.
The park last underwent a master plan in 1998 and many aspects are now outdated, Kraft said.
He asked for citizens to volunteer on five committees, and found an eager pool of volunteers, many from the ranks of Friends of Patterson Park and surrounding community groups.
Robert Wall, the recently-appointed director of recreation, assured the audience that the revamped master plan would “hit some home runs” for the park. The mayor has freed up money for professional staff to assist the volunteer committees.
Kraft said he hoped the master plan would be completed by the end of 2014.