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What next at Elizabeth park?

Starting nearly three years ago, Fourth Ward residents and the Mecklenburg Park and Recreation Department collaborated to plan, design and build the Ninth Street Park that opened in February.

Now, the department wants to try a similar approach to upgrade some existing Charlotte parks.

The park and rec department is accepting ideas for a five- and 10-year plan for the eastern portion of Independence Park near Seventh Street. The city's oldest park, Independence now features a rose garden, parking lot, walkways and not much more in the portion along Park Drive.

Melanie Sizemore, the Elizabeth Neighborhood Association president, said it's too early in the information-gathering stage to say what residents want, but that the park is a key cog in the community.

“I think taking a look at the park and saying, ‘What can we do to make it better?' is just a prudent step to take,” Sizemore said.

The Morningside neighborhood recently conducted a similar survey of residents for what they would want in a redesign of Veterans Park on Central Avenue. Brian Conroy, a park planner for the department's Central Region, said residents near Cordelia Park on North Davidson Street will do the same soon.

The proposed $250 million parks bond scheduled to go before voters won't affect any plans or ideas for Independence Park because it doesn't meet the requirements needed for improvements or construction, Conroy said. If approved, the referendum would provide money to upgrade some of the athletic facilities at Cordelia and Veterans.

What an official plan would do, he said, is help expedite the development process if another bond package comes around or extra operational funding is available.

The Fourth Ward neighborhood successfully petitioned the park and rec department to convert an unused parcel into a playground by raising money and gaining business contributions. More than 60 volunteers helped assemble the playground.

For Independence, which was built in the early 1900s, preliminary ideas have ranged from a playground to adding public art to reducing or eliminating the parking lot.

Conroy hopes to have all the ideas from residents by November and a plan presented around the end of the year.