Y, not! Chair says Festival can coexist in park
In yet another case of finger-pointing in McIntire Park, the Piedmont-Virginia YMCA has been saddled with the burden of ousting the long-standing Dogwood Festival from its home base. While the terms of the May 2008 park master plan provide for the Festival to remain in the park for the long haul, acting Director of Parks and Recreation Brian Daly recently announced that construction-time safety concerns mean the Festival must find a new home– temporarily, at least.
"The issue is that should the YMCA be under construction in April of next year, we don't want to hold a major carnival with that construction," Daly says. "It's only an issue for next year."
But does it have to be? Not according to YMCA chair Kurt Krueger.
"Construction goes on all the time, and things don't close down," says Krueger. "The Downtown Mall doesn't close because someone is building a hotel."
Dogwood Festival president Frieda Loose-Wagner, however, seems to accept the Parks and Rec mandate even noting that 2010 Festival attendees would find issues with parking. But Krueger refuses to let this argument cast the Y in the blame net either.
"If you think about the number of people who attend the festival, they really don't park in those hundred spaces [by the softball fields]," says Krueger. "It's the same old, same old. We didn't have a conversation with the Dogwood folks, nor did we ask anyone to displace them."
While Krueger concedes that Y construction will impact two of the park's shelters– one of which the Festival utilizes for its annual barbecue– he insists the construction site will be removed from the rest of the park. He speculates that the city opposes the festival's treatment of the grass fields.
"After two weeks, the festival pretty much kills the grass," says Krueger.
Recently, allegations about the Festival's vitality arose in public forums, and while Loose-Wagner confirms that Festival attendance fell this year, she says the cold, rainy weather was more a deterrent than any lack of public interest. And she sees the potential removal from McIntire as opening a door toward securing a permanent home.
Beyond the carnival ouster controversy, the Y is also at the center of a letter to the Virginia Attorney General by a group of citizens, headed by Bob Fenwick of the Save McIntire campaign, to have the Y's ground lease deemed illegal–- due to the fact that City Council didn't vote with a super-majority when approving the lease.
Already, the City has reversed two of its recent McIntire moves: destroying the softball fields and closing the wading pool. And while Fenwick says he isn't convinced that these reversals will be permanent, Krueger defends the City's move.
"It's perturbing," says Krueger. "It's starting to look like what [Fenwick] really wants seems to be exclusion." The ground lease, according to Krueger, is only for forty years. At the end of the lease's term, the Y will have to go through the approval process all over again to negotiate another lease.
In the midst of waiting for feedback and approval from Charlottesville's Board of Architectural Review, Krueger estimates the Y will break ground as early as the end of this year, a project that he says won't require the ouster of anyone from the park during construction– or after.
"The fact that the festival has been told that it's the Y that's causing the dislocation seems disingenuous to us," says Krueger. "From the Y's point of view, the more people in the park, the merrier."