Alabama Street Park meeting draws spirited discussion, finds some common ground

March 22nd, 2021     Community Featured News

About 80 neighborhood residents, some former residents and political hopefuls met at the Alabama Street Park Saturday to offer opinions on what should be done with the park.

Although a couple of pieces of playground equipment remain, the park has been more or less ignored for several years.

Now, the city has funds from a Kaboom grant that can be used to upgrade the area.

But before proceeding with any upgrade, community development officials wanted to hear from those involved.

It wasn’t clear how the meeting would go because some neighbors have had complaints about the park in the past.

At one time it apparently was known as “Drug Park,” and people stayed there late, made noise, played loud music and used a lot of profanity, Charles Buster said.

“I don’t like to walk out my back door and hear such,” he said.

However, Buster, who with two other neighbors who live closest to the park, emphasized that the neighborhood has improved a lot over the years.

One of the most vocal commenters was Adrian Ivy, who does not currently live on the North Side but grew up there and is considering moving back there.

“I was one of those kids they’re talking about that played here,” he said. He sees the value of returning the park to full use from his perspective but noted the park’s success will largely be up to the neighborhood and policing it when necessary. “You can’t control kids’ mouths,” he said.

After a lot of back-and-forth comments it appeared that everyone agreed they wanted the park to be available as a playground for children.

A sticking point was the suggestion of some sort of water feature.

Objections were raised by Bethany Dalton, who lives next to the park, and included maintenance problems, liability and the possibility that such a feature would draw people from outside the neighborhood, perhaps even out of town.

One concern was the lack of parking. Monroe Street, beside the park, is too narrow and even Broad and Alabama can only handle a few vehicles.

On the other hand, if this is to be a small neighborhood park, people would be within walking distance anyway.

Another objection was lack of rest rooms, with neighbors noting that in the past people had used their yards to relieve themselves.

Again, people in the neighborhood should be able to simply go to their homes to use the restroom.

What people easily agreed on was upgrading the existing playground equipment, adding some climbing equipment, possibly with a fire truck theme because of the nearness of the fire department, keeping as much green space as possible and perhaps allowing volleyball or soccer playing.

It was pointed out by Nina Beth Capaning that the Alabama Street Park is considerably different from Wilson Street Park on South Central and has much less buffer space than the larger park.

Good police patrols and neighbor awareness can keep the park from getting out of hand, and the use of surveillance cameras was suggested.

Other suggestions included landscaping, more and better lighting, benches, repairing sidewalks, adding a walking track for parents while their children play and even speed bumps or speed tables to keep traffic slow.

One person pointed out one obstacle in that people don’t always know their neighbors, and that the park could help with this.

“The park has changed in 37 years, but for the good,” Charles Buster said.

The grant will only be enough to fund a limited amount of work but Assistant Community Development Director Tracy Vainisi, who led the meeting, said that the city will work with the group and some businesses such as Union Lumber Company and B and B Concrete have offered to help with materials.

Community Development staff will consider all the comments and suggestions and then provide an updated development plan for the area.

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