Viewpoint

Charlotte is almost dead last in parks. Why are we bulldozing Marshall in 2nd Ward?

Mecklenburg County’s Brooklyn Village redevelopment project could shrink Marshall Park.
Mecklenburg County’s Brooklyn Village redevelopment project could shrink Marshall Park. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

When you rank 95th among 100 U.S. cities in terms of urban parks, according to the Trust for Public Land, it’s time to address your strategy for developing great green spaces as you grow your skyline.

Yet, here we are in the Charlotte area, considering another round of construction plans that provide little room for nature.

The proposals for Brooklyn Village are particularly upsetting. All three plans bulldoze over 5.5-acre Marshall Park in Second Ward, and replace it with a meager two acres or fewer of parkland. (Compare that to Romare Bearden Park in Third Ward, at about five acres.)

Members of the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Commission, in an April 19 letter to the Board of County Commissioners, have advocated a Brooklyn Village park of a minimum of five acres. This park would fulfill a plan dating back to 2001, when the county acquired eight acres for a center-city park. Voters in 2004 approved the funds to develop the park.

The dream for that park was deferred, however, to make way for the Charlotte Knights baseball stadium. The smaller Romare Bearden Park was developed instead, and attention turned to creating a significant center-city park in Second Ward.

It seems that dream for a significant city park is no longer a priority for decision makers.

However, parks – especially those with walking, biking and nature trails – are a high priority for Mecklenburg County residents. In its most recent survey of citizens, the Park and Recreation Department found that taxpayers not only wanted more such trails, but also were willing to fund them. Numerous scientific studies have found that access to adequate park space can improve productivity at work and in school, reduce crime and strengthen communities.

Those who argue that parkland doesn’t fuel the economy should consider the city of Dallas. Upon failing to recruit Boeing in 2001, the mayor appointed a task force that recommended expanding parks and open spaces. Dallas now is home to 5.2-acre (and internationally recognized) Klyde Warren Park and the Trinity River Corridor Project – and has one of the strongest economies in the nation.

The availability of open space in Mecklenburg County is disappearing at a rapid pace. We will have very limited opportunity to expand parks in our community in the future.

I hope the Board of County Commissioners doesn’t let our chances fade away.

Roberts is a Charlotte writer and editor.

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