Thursday, December 8, 2011

McIntire Botanical Garden Plans

Plans are underway to add a Botanical Garden to McIntire Park.  The park is managed by the city Parks and Recreation and adding the proposed garden to the park requires approval by the Charlottesville City Town Council.  A vote as to the future usage of this space will hopefully be decided in 2012. 

If you think the Botanical Garden is a worthy addition to the City, please attend the next meeting.

The next scheduled meeting is Monday, December 12.

Nice old Oaks on top of the hill on the East side.
Today, I ventured to the park for the first time.  When I moved here two years ago, my first indication of the existence of the park were the posted signs "Save McIntire Park".  For years, there has been a road construction project planned that would slice off part of the Eastern most section and many local residents have fought this decision.  Currently the park is divided down the middle by a railroad track giving it an East section and West.  McIntire Park has long been an enigma for me, probably because I see it as a recreational park and not a place to go and convene with nature.

I discovered that the East section is a large green expanse dotted with magnificant old Oaks and of what used to be a small golf course.  Apparently long defunct, I had the entire 75 acres to myself this cold afternoon.  Still actively used,  and visible from the 250 bypass is the playground and vintage McIntire Wading Pool.   There is also a small sweet Vietnam Memorial.  All of the elements that are still in use will remain.  Wow, talk about a diamond in the rough.  I was pleasantly surprised to find such openness downtown and now understand why the protest to protect this space is still enduring today.  Thankfully, it sounds like the City is open to the proposal to keep this area natural. 

Lovely rose at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
The proposed McIntire Botanical Garden will be located on the East side section of McIntire Park and feature native plants of the Piedmont Region of Virginia.  Detailed plans encompassing 75 acres have been professionally drafted.  A botanical garden is one that labels plant species.  When I think of gardens that I frequent several come to mind; the Richmond Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, the Roanoke Virginia Western Community Arboretum, the Lynchburg Old City Cemetery, and of course Monticello and the UVA Academical Gardens.   Given the setting is in a City on a hill, it reminded me of the stellar San Francisco Golden Gate Park Botanical Garden.  When I moved here I was a bit stunned that of all the outdoor parks and developed walking trails in the City of Charlottesville, there was not one Botanical Garden or Arboretum.  Sure, walking on natural trails that have not been landscaped is an equally wonderful experience and our Shenandoah National Park is outstanding but a Botanical Garden allows closeup contact with plants that might not always be spotted while hiking along a restricted trail path.  It's a different experience that is equally educational.

After visiting the site, I really can see this space becoming a nature lovers paradise.  There are some wonderful old Oaks, a Southern Magnolia, and Dogwoods.  Little Chickadees were following me around the Vietnam Memorial.  The park will become surrounded by traffic after the Meadow Creek Parkway opens, it will require a nice tree buffer to tone down the noise and that is exactly what this area needs!  The western side, by the railroad tracks, has a nice dense forested area.  I see no detriment of adding a Botanical Garden to McIntire Park.  The park is adjacent to neighborhoods where there are exercise paths, hiking trails, ball fields, a High School and Football Stadium, Condos, the 250 bypass, and Rio Road.  Our natural world is being chipped away with roadways and development.  This might just be the last place in the City for such a garden.

Planning meetings are open to the public.  The next scheduled meeting is Monday, December 12 where attendees will break out into groups and plan the future of the East side of the park!  All area interested gardeners are invited to attend this important meeting to aid in the planning of the area where the proposed Botanical Garden might reside.


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