This letter is regarding the Strawberry Plant Park design process, specifically the proposed “composite design concept 1 and 2.”
There is little difference between the two except for a slightly different shoreline. Both remove most of the existing earth piers – the highlight and most dramatic space in the park. They both call for a “salt marsh,” which would be just an environmental spin on the existing adjacent muddy tidelands .
This process seems to be under control of the mayor and there is little room for grass-roots participation, although they posture that there is. The consulting firm will do what the city wants so not to bite the hand that feeds it $200,000.
Here are problems or flaws I see with both concepts:
1. The existing 6-foot-wide concrete sidewalk would be removed. This is about the only waterfront experience available for people in wheelchairs. It currently has limited use because the city does not maintain the walk and does not let the community know that it exists. by putting up a sign.
2. The proposed picnic shelter area looks down on the parking lot and is far removed from the water. The existing concrete slab between the sidewalks is a much better location. A red brick surface on the slab would enhance it and would cost relatively little.
3. The 50-foot riparian buffer seems like overkill when compared to the 75 percent of the stream that is already riparian. Also, the buffer would act as a physical and visual barrier to users.
4. The existing pavement removal I believe is premature. I believe in a much smaller parking area, and we should explore other uses such as: a paved play area; a temporary parking area for city employees; and perhaps making it a site for cultural events.
5. It is often difficult for designers to except existing conditions and make a park by just cleaning up and maintaining it, which would cost little or nothing.
One last thought: While working at the park last winter, I asked visitors what should be done. Twenty-three out of 24 people agreed it should be just cleaned up like most parks, which is by itself a novel idea instead of suffering the heavy hand of park designers.