“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.

Jonesborough moves forward with new garage

Town moves forward with new garage

Published Nov. 19, 2014 in the Herald & Tribune

The Town of Jonesborough will soon see some changes for the town garage, as well as its current property located behind the new Senior Center site.

At the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting on Nov. 10, board members discussed an agreement with the Community Design Assistance Center of Virginia Tech and the option to purchase land from Jean Rosenbaum for a town garage complex.

“We are going to be doing some things to increase the parking lot at the facility,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said. “But the entire time we have discussed the Senior Center, we have also discussed the impact of the city garage operation and, as it currently exists, on the surrounding neighborhood.”

According to town officials, Jonesborough has unfortunately outgrown the space for the town garage, leaving equipment being crammed into spaces too small, left outside uncovered in the elements and damaged due to restricted turning.

“The town garage could look a lot better than it does. It’s a vastly overcrowded operation,” Wolfe said. “We have grown leaps and bounds, tenfold probably since the time the current town garage was put into operation. We went from a 20×30 parking lot to the current town garage operation. It is probably time to move on.”

Wolfe went on to say that discussions several years ago targeted issues with town property maintenance.

“In my opinion, it is hard for us to insist that someone maintains their property in a neat and tidy manner if we can’t do the same,” Wolfe said. “Quite honestly, I think the town garage is a detriment to the neighborhood in which it is currently located. It’s not something that we have done consciously; it has just become so over time.”

Alderman Homer G’Fellers made the motion to approve the option to purchase land from Jean Rosenbaum for a town garage complex, which unanimously passed. Alderman Chuck Vest was not present.

The Rosenbaum property includes 19 acres between SR 353 and the railroad tracks in the western part of Jonesborough. The 2011 appraisal valued the property at $8,750 per acre, with a total value of $172,025.

“This Rosenbaum property that we are talking about, I think, because of its location to the sewer plant and its relatively flat topography, would give us room to expand and a good place that we could operate without being in a visible area, without impacting a neighborhood,” Wolfe said.

He said it provides an opportunity to not only take care of the town garage, but possibly have a couple of soccer fields or ball parks.

A motion to approve the agreement with the Community Design Assistance Center of Virginia Tech, which was unanimously approved, was made by Alderman Terry Countermine. The agreement includes a conceptual development plan for a proposed park area where the garage is now located and plans for a new town garage complex.

Wolfe said discussions have been made for a long time regarding a new senior park concept in and around the Senior Center. He said the concept would be a very welcoming asset to the community.

“I know the neighborhood would certainly benefit from it,” he said.

Wolfe told the aldermen that he has taken a look at some of the work that the Community Design Assistance Center has done.

“You could emphasize community gardens. You could have a pet park. You could have a young child playground park. You could have a park where seniors could walk around and enjoy the serene landscaping,” he said.

Wolfe believes a park is a great opportunity to complement the new Senior Center.

“We as a board and as a community and as a Parks and Rec Board and Tree and Townscape Board have a chance to have input to make this thing uniquely Jonesborough and make it something special,” he said.

“There are a lot of different potential concepts for us to consider here, and these folks at Virginia Tech have a very good handle on it. Very impressive.”

The proposal includes Forest Competitive Grant funds in the amount of $18,540 that will pay the Community Design Assistance Center for the costs in developing the plans for both projects. The fund, which is part of a Virginia Department of Forestry federal grant fund, has an in-kind matching requirement of $12,887.

“Our in-kind contributions come from surveying and (topography) and doing staff work to help the company, which we would do anyway,” Wolfe said.

“For all intents and purposes, we are getting (the conceptual development plans) for free, which is pretty awesome.”