Thursday, January 24, 2013

If Life Hands You Lindens, Make Lindenade

At yesterday's Redevelopment Commission meeting I floated a lead trial balloon of turning the woebegone property of Linden Meadows into a water park. You may recall that years ago Linden Meadows, which is situated hard by I-64 and near Fairview Cemetery in the Valley View Court area, was on its way to becoming a major project of the New Albany Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO). The aim was to relocate good housing stock displaced by Floyd Memorial 's expansion to a nearby site, thus keeping affordable housing available for New Albany home buyers. The project foundered for numerous reasons and was recently erased from the intended relocation area as the houses in advanced stages of deterioration were bulldozed and the lots cleared.

Prior to that sad chapter the land had been a park featuring several baseball diamonds, Howard McLean Park. I live quite close to Linden Meadows and lived equally close when it was still a park. We used to take our dogs there to run. For a long time I remember seeing the park from the Interstate but never being able to figure out exactly where it was. (You may not want to go deep into the woods with me and rely on my orienteering skills to get back out.) For the superannuated readers, Howard McLean Park-remember this was in the days before Google Earth-seemed to me like the purse in Fontaine Ferry's Mirror Maze. In the hall of mirrors near the back was what appeared to be a mirror but was really a clear glass; behind the glass was an open purse with a lipstick and a wallet with a couple dollars spilling out of it. I always wanted to reach for it, but it was forever out of reach. Such to me was Howard McLean Park. And, I had several people report the same phantasmal perception of the park. Flying Dutchman Park?

Well, now there's no housing re-development and there's no park. But there is support for an aquatic center, a water park, call it what suits you, somewhere in New Albany.

The property once known as Linden Meadows is an excellent place to build a new water park. As mentioned above, the property sits close to the right of way for I-64. That alone is a huge negative for construction of new houses. Hell's Own Doorbell, the satanic Jake Brake, growls incessantly at all hours of the day or night. Such background noise is not a welcome ingredient when showcasing curb appeal.  It would matter not a bit to kids playing in a pool.

Not Linden Meadows is close to hundreds of houses with children, and many  of those children are not blessed with affluence. Building a water park in Not Linden Meadows would be an invitation to those children and their families to enjoy themselves while actively beating summer's heat, rather than retreating to an air conditioned couch in front of the television or game screen.

Not Linden Meadows is accessible by foot or bicycle for hundreds of kids. For those slightly farther away, State Street is just a couple blocks distant and is served, meagerly for now, by TARC buses. Now that New Albany controls its own parks, perhaps we can offer other modes of transportation through the Parks Department. Regardless of whether the water park is finally built at Not Linden Meadows or someplace else, it must be in a place conducive to people who don't drive or have access, because of working parents, to rides to the pool.

Also on the list for consideration as a site for the water park are three other locations: an undisclosed inner city spot, the front of Community Park, and the former Camille Wright Pool. Community Park, because of the pedestrian desert that is Grant Line road, is in my mind disqualified. Camille Wright probably would be fine since it once housed a popular pool, and it would be accessible by many nearby kids by foot or bike, but it is well-suited for infill housing.. And, of course the undisclosed location can't be considered since we don't know where it is.

So, that brings us back to Not Linden Meadows. It is located within safe, easy, reach of a lot of kids. The land, because of its noisy neighbor I-64, is not a prime house building spot. The proximity to the West End would bring welcome investment to that section of the City that is often slighted.

Not Linden Meadows is close to Cherry Valley  golf course  (it was once part of the golf course when it was Valley View). That would allow golfers to golf while other family members play in the water. When the golfer finishes the course in summer's heat a dip in the pool could be a refreshing end to the day.

New Albany has gone long enough without a pool of some sort. It's time to move toward a water park, pool or aquatic center. And, it's time to bring Not Linden Meadows full circle and return it to park status.


John Doughty said...

Two comments for you. First, is there adequate demand for a water park? Second, has anyone considered Bicknell Park? I assume the Parks Department still owns what appears to be an unused piece of ground.

John Gonder said...

I believe there's demand to support some kind of water facility. Some of the numbers thrown around have suggested a bonded expenditure of as much as $9million. I don't know if there's sufficient demand or support for something at that level of commitment.

My main point is that if such a commitment is pursued, at any level approaching those numbers, it should also solve some other problems along the way.

The Linden Meadows project was a failure. Its extended period of decline may have caused a loss of property value to surrounding homeowners. The presence of such a large concentration of abandonment, which persisted for too long, may have caused surrounding residents to take actions they might not have taken were it not for that failure, anything from not keeping up their own houses to moving from a place they liked.

And, building the pool at the Linden Meadows site may help to undo some of the damage that was done through those years of decrepitude.

The other locations mentioned for the pool have not paid those same costs. As I mentioned, Camille Wright could easily become a place for patio homes or single family dwellings.

The downtown site, especially since an aquatic playground would presumably sit idle for much of the year, could be a drag on the long hoped-for, and now welcome renaissance of the downtown. Having not witnessed any sustained progress in the Downtown such as what is currently, amazingly underway, I might have second thoughts about doing something which might place in that area a permanent facility of intermittent and limited utility. I might worry that it could upset, a la De Niro, the juju we've got going on right now.

As for Bicknell, it could probably work. But, it has some limited facilities in place that are used, such as basketball courts. It would be a good place for a fountain/wading pool for small children in the neighborhood with room left over for other welcome park features. I agree though that Bicknell is woefully underused and poorly appointed.

The Bookseller said...

John, there's one assumption you make that is incorrect. In 2013, no area pool allows unattended children. An adult must accompany all children at a pool.

I do like your suggested location and for the reasons you give. But don't assume that children with working parents or who are otherwise latch-key kids can just walk over to the pool.

On the other hand, a spray park might reasonably allow for free play among unaccompanied kids and that location would be a prime selection.

I still maintain that the aquatic center is a hallucinatory dream of middle-aged men who mistakenly equate their youthful desires with the requirements of the present day.

Were you, the mayor, and the council able to demonstrate that there is, indeed, an enormous demand for an outdoor pool complex, it would be different. But you are just assuming the need. You've not conducted any studies or surveys and you appear to be steaming toward a break-ground date.

John Gonder said...

Randy: The Doors' mega hit "Light My Fire" in the year of its release is the soundtrack to my pool days. A buddy and I would ride our bikes, mine a new blue Schwinn Stringray, to the Oasis. There we would marvel at what interesting changes were happening to the girls we had grown up with.

Quite possibly my mental daguerrotype of those days doesn't jibe with present reality.

I'm not ready to accept an invitation to the pool party just yet, and won't be until I gain a better, more current understanding of what an "aquatic center" would actually offer.