At tonight’s Patterson Park Working Group meeting, some degree of consensus on whether to add senior programming to the Casino building—and how to allow for vehicle access—is expected.
First District Councilman Jim Kraft said that while the Working Group will continue meeting monthly in order to update the park’s Master Plan, he expects that the group will soon be ready to present a proposal for the seniors’ access to the Casino.
Last fall, the community was outraged when the Recreation and Parks Department and the Health Department proposed adding 90-plus parking spaces to Patterson Park while relocating the services of the John Booth Senior Center, currently located in a crumbling building at 229 Eaton St., to the park’s Casino building.
About 500 residents from the communities surrounding Patterson Park showed up to a meeting on Oct.1 and enthusiastically slammed the proposal, adopting the slogan “No more cars, no more parking, and no more paving.”
Though they were less vocal, seniors from the John Booth Center also attended the meeting, in support of relocating senior programming to the Casino building. Ray Lubinski, a user of the John Booth Center and president of its advisory council wrote that moving to the Casino “would be wonderful.”
Lubinski told the Guide that many of the 100-plus users of the John Booth Center use oxygen tanks, canes and walkers, and that walking from Baltimore St. to the Casino, located just northeast of the park’s center, would not be viable for them. Several senior citizens told the Guide that they were not asking for the 90-plus parking spots of the original photo, but wanted to use the space already around the Casino.
Fast forward to today, and the Patterson Park Working Group, charged by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to build upon the existing master plan to “create comprehensive, community-driven strategies to enhance green space, increase traffic safety, and facilitate improved recreational opportunities in and around Patterson Park” has been meeting since November.
The Working Group includes representatives from the community associations within walking distance of the park, from umbrella groups such as the Audubon Society and the Friends of Patterson Park, and from city departments such as the Health Department and the Recreation and Parks Department.
According to “framing” documents from April, the city and the community groups agree on several points, including:
Senior programming is welcome in the park.
Inter-generational programming should be encouraged in the park.
The [Virginia Baker Recreation Center] should be expanded and include programming for a variety of age groups.
There should be a drop-off area and [Americans with Disabilities Act compliant] parking near the Rec Center; however, a large parking facility that exclusively serves the Rec Center is not appropriate.
Vehicular circulation and parking should be minimized.
The document notes that “stakeholders have different views on what constitutes ‘minimal’ parking.”
Other “divergent viewpoints,” according to the document, include programming. While the community associations and umbrella groups see the park as “particularly valuable for its natural quality” and favor a “focus on passive issues” and a “less-intensive approach to programming and facilities use,” the Recreation and Parks Department favors an approach that takes “advantage of available resources…to meet the recreational needs of as many users as possible,” while remaining “sensitive to environmental conditions and the image of the park.”
While the community associations and interest groups reportedly believe that “only vehicles that are absolutely necessary for park maintenance, safety, programming, and rentable facilities should be allowed in the park,” Recreation and Parks believes that “desired programs should inform the minimal level.”
With regard to parking, the Health Department has requested 25 total spaces “somewhat close to the Casino,” with 20 of those spaces for seniors and five for staff. The community groups have taken the position that “vehicle access and parking should be limited to the bare minimum for maintenance, service, and ADA accessibility,” according to the framing document.
Several sketches with potential parking plans for senior programming at the Casino building have been released. They are all available online at www.pattersonpark.com. Under the “general info” tab, click “Patterson Park Master Plan Working Group & Planning Committee,” and scroll down to find meeting minutes, documents, and plan options.
by Erik Zygmont