“It’s not for kids”

Park Proposals

Community meets to discuss land possibility near new senior center

Published in Herald & Tribune Dec. 10, 2014 issue

Although some members of the community voiced their concerns about the proposed park behind the new Senior Center being opened to everyone, including children, others at last week’s workshop wanted to incorporate elements that they could enjoy with their grandchildren.

“This is a community input meeting. It’s an opportunity for people within the community to give us ideas,” Town Administrator Bob Browning told the crowd of about 20 people that gathered Dec. 4 at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center.

The Community Design Assistance Center out of Virginia Tech led the session, which began with a power point presentation before splitting into two smaller groups to give individuals an opportunity to have discussions of what they would like to see at the park.

“Although I cannot give you a timetable on it,” Browning said of when the park would be completed, “It is our intention to change the area behind the new Senior Center building where our municipal garage is currently located.”

That space, Browning said, is approximately 3 acres, with some of the acreage being incorporated into parking for the Senior Center.

“We are in the process of developing an acquisition of property at the west end of town that we are going to try to move to. But in the meantime, we also wanted to plan for what happens when we leave that space,” Browning said. “We feel like we owe it to the neighborhood and the new Senior Center to develop a really nice park area or something that would be an asset to that community around there.”

The presentation showed such ideas as multi-use trails, different kinds of seating, various structures, games, shaded areas, water features, outdoor performing space, area for outdoor classes and plants that would attract birds and butterflies.

During the presentation, some members of the audience asked if the proposed park was a community park or a senior park.

“All of these pictures you are showing have children on them,” Stacy Rush, a Senior Center Advisory Board member, said of the slideshow presentation.

Rush said the way he understood the paper, was that the park would not be for children, it would be for seniors only.

Lead Landscape Designer Jen Jessup said they are starting off as a community park because that is how they generate ideas. She said if they see that the park is mostly going to be seniors utilizing the space based on everyone’s input, then it will be more of a senior park.

“But we have not got to those stages yet to call it a senior park,” she said. “We are trying to be all inclusive to the neighborhoods surrounding it and trying to get an idea of what the needs of the park are. If the needs of the park are to be a senior park, and strictly a senior park, that will be one of the concepts.”

Once the crowd broke into two smaller groups, they had an opportunity to write down what they wanted to see at the park, which was then displayed for everyone to see.

Such ideas as walking trails, shaded areas, pavilions, water features, restrooms, raised garden beds, places for children to play, swings for sitting and benches with backs, grilling area and a lending library were among some of the ideas.

After Community Design Assistance Center Director Elizabeth Gilboy asked her group if they wanted to bring their grandchildren to the park, a discussion broke out. Many of the members of the group agreed that the park should be used only by senior citizens, which did not sit well with one member of the group, who collected her belongings and left.

Rush said if the space is turned over to allow children to play at the park, senior citizens are going to get run over and possibly knocked down.

Rush said if you put a teeter totter in, the kids will come.

“I haven’t been working this whole time to put in a children’s park,” he said. “We may not be able to put a sign up, but people need to know ahead of time, it’s not for kids.”

Carol Jernigan, who was a registered parish nurse at the Senior Center, said although some members of the community voiced their concerns about the park being used by children, she did not have any trouble with children accessing the space. Jernigan said she does, however, understand why they would like it geared toward a certain age.

“As a population, I don’t think they are anxious to mingle,” she said.

Rush said he would like to see such elements as a shuffle board area, restrooms and places to sit, preferable benches with backs.

Jernigan said she attended the meeting because she has been interested in seeing the Senior Center have a raised garden bed. She said it would be nice to bring seniors together in an outside setting.

“There is plenty of need for fresh food and fresh vegetables,” she said, adding that senior citizens are always looking for inexpensive food opportunities.

Jernigan said she thinks the park is a great idea because it would create a stopping place with extended walkways through town for gathering and recreation.

The ideas from Thursday night’s meeting will be made into two conceptual designs and brought back to the community at the end of January 2015. From there, feedback and comments will be taken into consideration and brought back to the community in March.