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Monday, December 24, 2007

Our Sylvan Urban Oasis

Letters To The Editor- Times Dispatch: "Homeless Groups Should Organize"

A reasonably worded letter in Sunday's RTD calls for groups feeding the homeless in Monroe Park to organize to maximize their efforts, a laudable suggestion which I have made several times. He then goes on to say they should have a permanent enclosed facility within the park to conduct their activities. I have news for you there are already TONS of permanent,enclosed facilities with kitchens, seating areas and bathrooms. They are called churches and Richmond has them in abundance. I am all for churches using their own ample facilities to conduct their charity work, but let Monroe Park be used for what it was designed, a place for people to gather, play and enjoy a quiet time in the midst of busy, noisy city.

For those of us who live in apartments and row houses, this is OUR front and back yard and to say the park has NOT been rendered useless is to ignore the obvious. Sure there are occasional events that draw crowds to the park. I have been there during the Monument 10K and events like that are the exception that proves the rule. It's not what happens on special occasions that defines the park, it is the day to day emptiness that characterizes the park. A national famous park consultant estimated that Monroe Park should handle several hundred people at a time WITHOUT seeming crowded. On that night there were less than 10. I'm not sure where Mr. Woodson has been, but I have never seen the park full of sun bathers and frisbee throwers. There is the occasional small gathering or football game, but VCU students either walk through it quickly or walk around it from across the street.

Just try getting a group of children together there. I have and it doesn't work. Those many people who come to see the "sylvan" setting of our urban oasis do it from the seat of their car while driving past it. Most of them are shaking their heads saying what a nice place this could be. Next time you want to know what Monroe Park is like ask the park neighbors, students and police.

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