Dependable Erection

Friday, April 06, 2007

We write letters

Rhonda Parker, interim Director of Durham Parks and Recreation Department, has responded to my complaints about the parking issues at Duke Park.

Ms Parker writes:

At Duke Park, for instance, there are 22 off-street spaces on Acadia St. and approximately 35 on-street spaces on the park side of Knox St. and Acadia St. There were also approximately 15 off-street parking spaces on the park's interior loop road -- that road was closed at the neighborhood's request to turn it into an additional play area, and the neighborhood was told during that planning process that the closure would quite likely generate more on-street parking.

I know that this neighborhood loves Duke Park; please help us reduce some of the negative impact you seem to be experiencing by calling the Police when you see instances of littering, vehicles on the interior loop road, or alcohol in the park. That will be of real assistance to keeping the park in top shape. Thank you for your continued assistance. Rhonda

Here's my response:

Ms. Parker,

i'm afraid that my recollection does not jibe with your account. The loop within Duke Park was closed by mutual consent of the Neighborhood Association and the Department of Parks and Recreation. My recollection of the meeting in which this was discussed had us proposing that the loop be closed to parking in order to provide a surface on which children could learn to ride bicycles or roller skates without their parents having to worry about moving vehicles. Additionally, there were numerous complaints about individuals sleeping in parked cars throughout the hours which the park was opened, which although completely legal, discouraged many parents of small children from using the park.

DPR's response to this was along the lines of "Oh, you folks want the loop closed to parking?" So do we. We were afraid you were going to want us to keep it open."

On the other hand, the off-street parking that used to exist in the area near the old, and now demolished, picnic shelter at the north of the park, was always slated to be kept as a parking area. It was not until after the entire presentation of park renovations made by DPR in 2001 was abandoned in favor of a limited construction of new playground equipment, sometime in 2003, that DPNA was informed that area would no longer be available for public, off-street parking. I recall quite clearly making my objections plain to members of DPR staff that that area needed to remain public parking.

The whole parking issue is raised by the Planning Department indicating that the current, on-street parking availability may not be enough in the event that the bathhouse is renovated and reopened to public use. It is unlikely that the bathhouse will ever attract the number of users that the playground does, especially when you consider that the playground attracts users from all over the city, most of whom drive to the park. My point is that if the Planning Department is concerned that parking may be inadequate for the bathhouse, how can it possibly be adequate for the park itself, which attracts upwards of 200 people on a weekend afternoon?

Ms. Parker, the entire history of the Duke Park renovations, beginning with the 1996 bond issue and continuing up to this very day with the mismanagement of the "meadow" where the former swimming pool used to be (the area commonly referred to as the Duke Park swamp) is fraught with missteps on the part of DPR. I could fill a small book with the promises made by DPR (and, to be fair, other city agencies as well. The "swamp" fiasco was not entirely DPR's fault.) to the neighborhood regarding the Duke Park renovations, virtually none of which were kept by the city.

The bottom line remains, the city of Durham kept an unused, unusable, and unmaintained swimming pool in Duke Park for over a decade. The city of Durham continues to keep an unused and unmaintained structure, namely the bathhouse, in Duke Park. It is going on 14 years since the bathhouse received a nickel's worth of maintenance from the city. Your department has no plans and no funds allocated to do anything with this structure. The Neighborhood Association would like nothing more than to take responsibility for its renovations, and at every step of the way we encounter red tape, bureaucratic obstinacy, and an inability to think outside of the box that is demoralizing to every resident of the neighborhood who has tried to become involved in any aspect of the park renovation.

To be frank, we need, and deserve, better from the city.


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