City reaches out for ideas to revitalize Dover Park

 

Nearby residents of Dover Park participated in a walkthrough of the park on May 27, 2017 to point out areas of concern and gave their ideas for improvements at the facility. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — When city officials look at Dover Park, they see 28.2 acres of vast recreational potential at a downtrodden facility that is currently the most underused of Dover’s three anchor parks.

Consider there are 2,900 housing units and 5,000 residents that live within a mile of Dover Park, which is located at 1210 White Oak Road, and it’s easy to see the need for the revitalization of the recreational area on the east side of Dover.

Staff from Dover’s Parks and Recreation Division and representatives from Whitman, Requardt and Associates LLP – an engineering, architectural, construction management and environmental firm – were on hand for the Public Kick-off and Open House for the Dover Park Master Plan on Wednesday night at the Dover Public Library.

“We’ve been hired by the city to put together a Master Plan for Dover Park,” said Michael Campbell, a landscape architect for Whitman, Requardt and Associates LLP. “(Wednesday night) was our public kickoff meeting where we’re just here to collect and gather information from the public and find out how people are using Dover Park and what they’d like to see as far as improvements at Dover Park.”

Katie Kent was one of several dozen community members who attended Wednesday’s Kick-Off event.

“I didn’t even know Dover Park was there,” Ms. Kent said. “The park has a lot of potential. I’d like to see the park open at night in the summertime, so people can have picnics and get-togethers and I like the idea of keeping the forest area for walking around on nature walks.

“The park is almost 30 acres and there’s a lot of potential there for something special.”

Future meetings seeking input

A charrette process regarding making improvements for the park will take place over three days next week at Maranatha Church, at 1235 East Division Street.

There will be a Public Design event next Tuesday from 5 until 7 p.m., an Open Design Studio on Wednesday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. before Whitman, Requardt and Associates make their Design Concepts Presentation on Thursday from 5 until 7 p.m.

“It’s really a condensed way and planning process to gather as much information as we can and develop a park plan that is feasible and implementable and can be maintained by the city of Dover,” Mr. Campbell said.

Margie Cyr, acting director of the Parks and Recreation Division, said that there has been a sizeable hole in recreational opportunities on Dover’s east side over the past several years.

“It’s very important,” Ms. Cyr said, about making improvements to Dover Park. “I think it’s very important to the city and to the people of the city. I think we need to develop this park on this side of town.

“I think that we need to bring activities back to the park and make sure that the park is safe. We need to make sure that the facilities at the park are well kept and usable by the people and I think we need to bring programming back to the park.”

Next week’s design events will be held so that the public can offer and develop alternative plan concepts for the park and make recommendations for future programming.

“In order to do that we have to find out what it is that the people really want, because we can’t offer everything,” said Ms. Cyr. “Our resources are limited, not only time, but staff and budget, so we have to be able to prioritize what it is that we can do in context of what the people want.

“That’s why this type of a process is really important.”

Councilman Sudler long-time proponent of improvements

Roy Sudler Jr., a city councilman for the 4th District, has been banging the drum for the city to clean up and revitalize Dover Park for a couple of years now.

Dover Park once had an indoor recreation facility. However, city council voted to demolish it in 2014 because the recreation center, built in the 1970s, was aging and time had taken a toll on the building, and between deterioration and water penetration, it had become obsolete.

The park is currently comprised of nearly 30 wooded acres that includes softball fields, a playground, pavilions, basketball courts, tennis courts, disc golf and more.

A lap with Councilman Sudler around Dover Park last year revealed a recreational area where certain corners have fallen into disrepair due to criminal activity, neglect and misuse.

Tables in the park’s pavilion have been used for beds for homeless people, benches have been burned during the winter to produce heat and graffiti and vandalism scar the area.

“We have to give (east side residents) something to do, and it’s not just about sports activities, but it’s about being able to provide life-skills programming as well,” Mr. Sudler said.

“I was extremely excited to see the willingness from diverse communities throughout the city of Dover, so eager and enthusiastic about restoring Dover Park and recreational facilities.”

He added, “What impressed me the most was the open and honest dialogue between the community and officials pertaining to the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of Dover Park.”

Improved safety is priority No. 1

Safety is the No. 1 concern when it comes to Dover Park. The hope is that active programming will keep the facility buzzing and will help keep the criminal element away.

“If we took the time to police the areas more then there wouldn’t be people out there who have time to do any damage to the area,” Stephen Fountain said, at a community meeting regarding Dover Park last year. “It belongs to the city of Dover and for the people who have use for it.

“There’s plenty of ground for an (indoor facility) to expand to be able to have a lot of things in there for kids and for adults to be able to do things and allow them to have a better perspective on their life.”

Mr. Campbell recognized the importance of safety.

“We hear that safety is an important issue,” he said. “They (the city) want to make sure that the park is safe for all users and really activate the park because right now it’s not an active park, which leads to the perception that it’s not a safe place.

“A lot of people like the natural aspects of Dover Park. There’s the woodland area, there’s a forested area, and places to walk, which is a nice piece that you often don’t find at some other parks. There is a lot of potential for good things to happen at Dover Park.”

Now it’s up to the community to decide what those good things will be.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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