Y, not! Chair says Festival can coexist in park

news-dogwoodcarnivalIs the Piedmont Virginia YMCA responsible for ousting another organization from McIntire?

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."

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So now we have stooped to attacking the YMCA based on its being a ââ?¬Å?Christian” organization and thus unworthy of a place in a public park?

This sounds like another desperate smear attempt. Yes. Yes the Y is an organization founded on Christian principles. Just like other entities such as, well, America.

Has the writer ever even been to a Y? I had the pleasure of working for one as a young man and being a member of others throughout my life. What you learn quickly as a member is that the Y is a place of inclusivity not of exclusivity. It is a place that welcomes Christians just as it welcomes Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and members of any other religious persuasion.

Throwing religion into this argument or any other should be done carefully and only with facts to back you up. This person has none of those and seems to be once again diverting the issue to a convenient, and dangerous target.

Anyone who knows this town and the business players in it knows that this issue is not about God. Nor is it about land. It’s about power and it’s about money, the two things that really make the ââ?¬Ë?Ville go round.

says Krueger. ââ?¬Å?It’s the same old, same old." Sounds like he's ready to strangle someone. Guess the image of the big bad Y destroying the park isn't great for fund-raising

The big bad Y is NOT going to destroy the park...the city is lucky to have it. In fact, I wish the Y would change it's mind and come out to the county. We'd love to have it and wouldn't complain about it every step of the way. The city residents would then have to pay the extra fees that we pay to participate in Y activities. And they'd have to drive. Please quit complaining city folks.

The Y will only be helping to destroy the park. The parkway is the real killer.

They both are to be built over creeks.

Let's see here...first they attack the Y because the Y is alleged to be behind the ruination of the sacred softball fields. Oops...turns out the city was behind that. Next they blame the Y for forcing out the cherished tradition of the carnival. Oops...they're not behind that either? What will people blame them for next...trying to provide this community with a first-class and affordable recreation option that will serve generations of citizens with outstanding programs and facilities? Or creating a place where families can seek out healthy fun together?

Enough with the scapegoating. It's tiresome and annoying and doing an injustice to the people behind this effort and more importantly, to an organization that has improved communities around the United States for generations.

Remember that "C" in the name? I have to question whether having a religiously based organization take away part of our major central city park is in any way improving our community. There was once talk of enough space being downtown for a baseball stadium to be built. Why isn't the Y going there? If a public park were to be sacrificed for that purpose, why not Tonsler Park on Cherry Avenue?

I think it's highly unlikely that the Y ever gets off the drawing board. They still need to raise ~$7.5M (they've raised about $4M to date), and in this economy, with the stigma of the softball & Dogwood Festival controversies, I just don't see them ever finding big donors willing to associate with this project and therefore getting this off the board.

And if I'm wrong, I'd still bet this doesn't impact the Festival in 2010. In order to do so, you'd have to intend to break ground in late '09 - in about 6 months, though all of the prep work (lining up contractors, etc.) needs to start months before, and all of this is triggered by fundraising success.