City Manager Kevin Dorn meets with residents to discuss the future of Baycrest Park.

The Future of Baycrest Park - A Community Conversation

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Thursday August 06, 2015

What is a Park? Is it a field filled with children playing soccer or baseball? Is it a quiet place for a person to walk? Is it an open green space or a place with playground equipment and park benches?

These are the questions neighbors are asking about Baycrest Park, a 1.7 acre green space that is currently being vetted for future use.

In mid-July, the City of South Burlington invited all interested parties to meet at Baycrest Park, off of Baycrest Drive, for a community visionary discussion focused on the future of the neighborhood’s treasured space. As neighbors walked toward the park, groups gathered to chat, children played on the open green, and dogs roamed close to their owners.

Over a year ago, residents T.J. Donovan, Dan Boyer, and Ross Fenderson explored the idea of adding amenities to Baycrest Park. They approached the Recreation and Leisure Arts Committee about their idea and set out to gauge results via an online survey to neighborhood residents. Since then, the inquiry has prompted discussions, a petition, and a handful of follow-up community meetings

“The timing of this request was very good,” City Manager Kevin Dorn said to the crowd. “The city is involved in management plans for other city owned properties [like Wheeler property and the Underwood property].”

After introductions from over forty residents, neighbors broke out into groups and walked around the park while discussing their perspective of the property, what it means to them today, and what they might want it to mean to them in the future.
Residents shared their thoughts about the park:

“It needs to be attractive for the kids. This field is nice, but as a little kid, I don’t know why I would come here.”

“It’s flexible the way it is now, for the kids who want to play a soccer game, throw a Frisbee or run their dogs, there’s not too many places that do that.”

Once you take it away, it’s gone, but if it’s done in a carefully planned manner, it still has that open feeling.”

Some groups shared similar thoughts, others had varied views; after 20 minutes, they gathered to get it all out on the table.

“The consensus was to maintain the majority as open space,” Donovan said of his group, adding that signage and benches were desirable amenities.

“I think what came out of these meetings, and after meeting with T.J., is we wanted to have a sense of community here...having a place where people can sit down, very minimal...but I think whatever we do, it needs to be really kept open and well-planned,” said Resident Deborah Yergeau. Yergeau and her husband, David, were the creators of the petition. Yergeau said she also had landscape architect Keith Wager sketch up a plan.

There were split feelings about having a playground structure, but for those in favor of it, they agreed that it should be small, used to attract the smaller children, and to maintain the rest of the area mainly as green space.

Those opposed, such as Nathalie Bolh, a Baycrest Dr.resident with two children, said that the space encourages children to use imagination while keeping it open.

‘I think the idea that to build community you need to build a structure is kind of old fashioned. I think there are many ways to build community beyond building structures; you can build community by organizing barbeques for the entire neighborhood,” she said.

Other ideas that arose: improved walkability (especially for the elderly), possibly having a crosswalk for the safety of pedestrians and to slow down mobile traffic, adding a bicycle rack, having a community bulletin board with upcoming events, improving drainage, eliminating courts as an option, and not providing lighting at night. One resident even asked about the possibility of having the land regraded.

What’s next for Baycrest Park? The input from the evening discussion will be reported back to the Recreation and Leisure Arts Committee for consideration.

“In the end, if funding is involved, the city council is probably going to be involved in making a decision on that investment. They’re going to depend on the recommendation from the Recreation and Leisure Arts Committee,” Dorn said.

As the sun gradually set and neighbors continued talking, a small voice could be heard in the background.

“Is the playground here?” a young boy asked his father.

“Not yet. Maybe someday.”

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent