Riverdale Park residents give input on park redesign

Residents of Riverdale Park brainstorm ideas for the redesigning of a local park with members of the Neighborhood Design Center. The park is known as the “Field of Dreams” and is located at the intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Tuckerman Street. (Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Design Center)

Residents of Riverdale Park brainstorm ideas for the redesigning of a local park with members of the Neighborhood Design Center. The park is known as the “Field of Dreams” and is located at the intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Tuckerman Street. (Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Design Center)

An open field central to the town of Riverdale Park is the center of controversy for residents new and old, following a March planning session.

Riverdale Park teamed up with a local nonprofit neighborhood planning group, The Neighborhood Design Center, to create a plan for an old recreational field located at the intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Tuckerman Street, according to Kevin Simpson, director of development services in Riverdale Park.

For years, residents used the space as a baseball and casual recreational sports field, Simpson said. However, the park’s proximity to residential homes on Tuckerman Street sparked complaints about the noise and lack of parking.

“Because there was no parking lot, unlike other parks in Riverdale Park, cars would park on the field,” Simpson said. “For residents nearby, the park affected their quality of life in a negative way.”

With Riverdale Park Station less than a mile from the park, there has been an increase in the amount of traffic through the area, convincing town residents and directors the space was ready for an upgrade, Simpson said.

Outreach to residents began with extensive communication efforts in the fall. Town staff posted signs throughout the town and distributed them to residents as well. Staff also flooded its social media accounts with promotion of the town meetings and an online survey, Simpson said. Residents could find the development plans in monthly newsletters and biweekly status reports from the town.

The most important part of this redevelopment plan was the survey produced by the Neighborhood Design Center’s Marita Roos, the senior programs manager and lead designer in the Prince George’s County office, and Rachel McNamara, the program manager from the same office.

“Given that Hyattsville, Riverdale Park and College Park are all neighbors, our offices have worked with all of the towns to improve them,” Roos said. “The field’s history has been a difficult one, and it [the field] is kind of languishing away.”

The survey, in English and Spanish, demonstrated the difference between the new and old town residents. New residents desired a park that would be used for not only recreational activity, but also for cultural events. However, residents who are closer the park and have lived in the town longer wanted a passive park.

“The field serves as a transition point between the new developments on the Riverdale Park Station side and the more traditional part of town,” Simpson said. “The old side of town says, ‘We’ve been there and done that, a recreational park isn’t going to work.’”

In March, the Neighborhood Design Center hosted a design planning session at town hall that gave residents the opportunity to brainstorm and voice their thoughts for the park’s redesign. Twenty residents attended the meeting, more than the number of residents that would normally attend a council meeting, Simpson said.

The divide between residents became more apparent at the meeting as they revealed in greater detail what they saw the park becoming, Roos said.

Residents in the park’s vicinity argued that the noise and lack of adequate parking for visitors are nuisances and unfair, a report following the meeting said. Results from the survey revealed that more visitors than not would be walking or riding a bike to the park, thus alleviating some of that issue.

Those opposed to a recreational park also argued that there were plenty of other parks in the town, less than a mile away, where residents could go to if they wanted to play sports, have event programming or bring their dogs.

Having residents familiar with the park explain their thoughts proved to be helpful during the meeting in March, Simpson said. However, the people in attendance only represented those with a strong desire either way for the park and do not speak for everyone in the town, Simpson said.

“With these dynamics at times, you’re going to have some folks that are not satisfied,” Simpson said. “You can’t always please everyone. But the goal is to have a fair and transparent process.”

By the end of the meeting, the consensus was to go with plans for a more passive park that offers visitors the “opportunity to just relax,” Simpson said of the meeting. The preliminary design of the park features more shrubbery, trees, scenery and a walking path, according to the meeting report.

The next steps in the planning of the park are to find funding for it. Because there isn’t a lot of construction needed to create the park, the town is looking for grant funding, specifically the Program Open Space grant from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.