The potential to put up paradise by un-paving a parking lot

In more recreational news, there was an article in the Telegram (“Downtown visions: Development corporation begins to sketch out plans for city’s core“, April 8) about the potential for turning the McGrath parking lot (that is, the parking lot adjacent to the main library) into a park.

(If there is one parking lot in this city that is more than appropriately named, it is the one named after our former city manager, and I will oppose its removal with every fiber of my being.)

In short, part of the proposal for the Federal Square area would be to redevelop the T&G’s Federal Square parking lot to put in a residential building and parking decks with space for as much as 500 cars.  This would the McGrath park for development into something prettier.

I have no problem with pretty, and I’m always excited at the prospect of more park space, but we do not have money to care for the parks we have right now.  We only have money to develop the aforementioned aquatic facilities because of CSX; Elm Park is in a less-than-adequate state; and the downtown park we already have, the Common, is in no great state itself.

We should not add park space (or, indeed, any amenities, aquatic or otherwise) without truly taking into account the amount of time, effort, and (especially) money it will take to maintain it for years to come.

When the library was redesigned more than a decade ago, the entrance was specifically designed to open to the parking lot.  (Previously, the only entrance was the entrance on Salem Street.)  If the parking lot were removed, that entrance would only be good for park-goers.

Since we’ve long since eliminated our neighborhood libraries, the main library is the home branch for most library patrons.  Many of us have no choice but to drive or take the bus there.

For those of us who drive, the elimination of the McGrath lot would mean we’d need to park over on Federal Street, walk down Portland, cross Salem, and then walk down to the library entrance.  It’s not a straight shot for any pedestrian.  (We will leave out the need for handicapped parking at present, which I think is also of concern.)

I’d likely have a different feeling if Federal Street came all the way up to Salem Street — then you could have more of a direct route.  Or if the library opened up facing the Common — then it would be much more natural from a pedestrian perspective.

We (as a city) have no will to make serious long-term investments in our parks, and I don’t know that there’s an overwhelming clamor for another park within a 300-foot radius of the Common.

Let’s focus on figuring out how we can pay for park services without various white knights (CSX, PILOT, WBDC, etc.) before committing ourselves to another park.


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