Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Historic Germantown's Objectives For Morgan Park

Germantown community leader, Ernest Campbell, presented his neighborhood's objectives for Morgan Park at last night's Salemtown Neighbors association meeting. Morgan Park sits on the boundary between Germantown and Salemtown. He also asked for the participation and endorsement of Salemtown Neighbors in efforts to realize those objectives, including either having a SNNA officer join with Germantown leaders or starting a joint Salemtown/Germantown committee on Morgan Park.

The specific objectives that Mr. Campbell introduced have already been formulated by the Historic Germantown Neighborhood Committee on Morgan Park after a charette on Morgan Park a few years ago. Those objectives include:

  1. Creation of a place of natural beauty ... including extensive presentation of native and city-worthy specimens
  2. An attractive and well-maintained playground area with varied equipment for families in Germantown, Salemtown, and East Germantown
  3. A realization of the "Nashville Horticultural Gardens" originally begun on the site around 1845
  4. An appropriate linkage with and destination on the Metro Greenways System
  5. A water feature commemorating the "Sulphur Spring"
  6. To unify the two halves of the Park ... and convert the area between 3rd and 4th into multipurpose recreation area
  7. Growing identity of the Park as an art-friendly setting
  8. Restoration of the existing 100-year old building ... at 5th and Hume
  9. Extensive expansion of the Park toward the Cumberland River
Mr. Campbell expressed his group's concern that the current renovations--to which Metro has committed $200,000--do not include the HGN Committees objectives, and asked for SNNA's help. He told us that Metro is slated to put the greenway in as a connector to a Germantown greenway, which itself would connect to Bicentennial Mall (no planned Salemtown connector). In the short discussion that followed, SNNA neighbors expressed support for, concern about, and opposition to some of the Germantown objectives.

That dividedness and ambivalence is also the way I feel about the objectives. There are some that I believe are strong and worthy of Salemtown support. There are others, like converting the baseball diamond and removal of fences, that I do not believe would be in the best interests of Salemtown families. I also have concerns about conversion of the old playground (which needs to be updated); I would like to see what kind of playground the HGN Committee envisions before signing off on this plan. It seems like most of the objectives are adult-friendly and attractive to individuals and to families without children, but if the North End is going to be a strong and diverse community, we need more amenities that will attract families with children, not less. As it stands right now, Morgan Park is the center of activity for children and teenagers in the North End, and most if not all of those kids live in Salemtown. They play both baseball and football on the diamond (with their families gathered to watch) and they spend the remains of their afternoons around the community center. And those are good things that ought to be promoted, not changed. Morgan Park should be more than just a back-balcony vista for Morgan Park Place.

We should make sure that we listen to the concerns of long-time Salemtown residents, some of whom have lived here much longer than the 20 or so years that Historic Germantown has been in existence. Rightly or wrongly, they have felt left out of Historic Germantown's setting of priorities for the North End, and it seems that no one from the Germantown group consulted Salemtown residents when the former moved its boundaries north into Salemtown from Van Buren St. to Hume St., after it became clear that Werthan Bag would redevelop residentially. Some in Salemtown may interpret the Morgan Park objectives as further unilateral action on the part of Germantown organizers, without regard for Salemtown. So, if SNNA is going to sign off on these objectives, we should make sure that our residents feel that they have some ownership of and influence over them, too.

Having said that, I believe that it would be a mistake to opt out and not participate in this discussion. Because Morgan Park is so central to the life of our neighborhood, our voices need to be heard when Metro makes decisions about how to spend our tax-dollars on the park. If Salemtown does not correspond and communicate our concerns to the Germantown committee, either by participation or by formation of a larger, two-neighborhood committee, chances are that we will have absolutely no influence over the decisions that get made. That would be tragic: no response would confirm any notions that Salemtown is not a force with which to be reckoned.

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