Safe! McIntire softball fields saved
It may have taken thirteen months, hundreds of petition signatures, and several public meetings, but McIntire Park's historic softball fields will remain.
The fields have been under the threat of the bulldozers since the city's Parks and Recreation department presented City Council with their master plan for McIntire last May. The plan, which included the construction of the Piedmont Virginia YMCA, also required the removal of McIntire's two longstanding softball diamonds, in order to make room for city-regulated parking and stormwater management. A single, multi-use, artificial-turf field was added into the master plan in the space formerly housing the two softball fields.
"From what I've seen and what they've said, there will not be as big a building footprint as there was in the master plan," interim Director of Parks and Recreation Brian Daly says. "It will most likely allow the softball fields to be retained in their current location and size."
The city's announcement of the imminent removal of the fields roused the community's softball league and park users to action. Refusing to sit idly as their prime fields were torn down and accusing the city of neglecting to inform the larger community, softball players demanded both answers and action. Over a period of six months, the city and Albemarle County held half a dozen public meetings to guage the community's desires for both McIntire and the mutually-owned Darden Towe Park. As a replacement for McIntire's fields, former City Parks and Rec Director Mike Svetz recommended lighting Towe's three softball fields– a move that continued to fan the flames, as Towe's County neighbors demanded Towe remain an unlit, daytime park. Former Board of Supervisors Chairman Ken Boyd was "bothered" by the city's assumption that Towe would be lit as a result of McIntire's master plan.
“One of the questions my constituents and I have is– is there another alternative? Do we really have to get rid of McIntire Park?” Boyd asked in the September 4 issue of The Hook. “Those are discussions that we haven’t had with the City–- it’s something that bothers me.”
But as questions and doubts circulated as to the wisdom of McIntire's master plan, word of a slimmer YMCA footprint brought hope to all parties involved. An October 8 County public hearing ultimately benched the proposed Towe lighting, while the YMCA revealed building plans that would position the facility to save the softball fields existing space– a position YMCA Board Chairman Kurt Krueger claims was always their intent.
"This is not a change in direction for us– it's consistent with what we said back in April," Krueger says. "We plan to build a smaller building with the money we have now, but will reserve areas for expansion if the need is there."
Presenting the Darden Towe Committee, a joint city-county body comprised of two Supervisors and two Councilers, with conceptual plans yesterday to positive response, the YMCA plans to seek the approval of the entire City Council and Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks to allow their architect, VMDO, to draw up the final site plan. Similarly, as soon as the conceptual plans are approved by both governing bodies, McIntire's master plan can be amended to provide for the preservation of the fields.