Open letter from Oregon Hill resident and Monroe Park Advisory Council member Charles Woodson:
Two years or so ago when the Monroe Park Advisory Council stopped meeting and an exciting Monroe Park Master Plan was delivered to our City Government, I figured the Park was at its most downtrodden. It was impossible to fathom Monroe Park – our first City Park and one that just oozes with fascinating history and promise of a great rebirth, falling even further into a rotting, even more trash filled and untended and dangerous corpse of a place. On Sunday, July 15, 2012 at around 3PM, that realization slapped me in the face. Three RPD cruisers were parked by the overgrown fountain with blue lights flashing, responding to reports of a “crazy man screaming and brandishing a gun” in the Park (their words). I felt afraid for my life.
Historic Monroe Park is situated equidistant from the James River, the soon to be refurbished $50,000,000.00 Altria Theatre (nee Mosque) project and VCU’s beautifully planned $32,000,000.00 Institute of Contemporary Art but there is no word on poor Monroe Park with its terrific $6,000,000 plan of redemption. No website for either the Park itself or the phantom Monroe Park Foundation exists on the web. Nothing… Nada … just Yelp.com’s disturbing descriptions of drunks and hobos and a few other meaningless entries.
The many feedings continue to pour trash into the Park. Trashcans full after one or two feedings, the patrons sit on the benches beside the fountain and just throw refuse on the ground where it gets blown with the trash can overflow into VCU and the neighborhoods surrounding the historic Park.
The trees need maintenance, some need removal and a hundred or so need planting.
The barren brown grounds, devoid of grass in many areas need work to revive.
The decrepit sidewalks and pathways crumble beneath your feet.
Substance abuse is rampant. I wouldn’t want my kids playing here.
Im ashamed mostly at myself for not being a more consistent voice for this great Park. But im also ashamed of you, Charles Samuels, since this is your district and you were a champion for the Park at one time. And there is shame for the Mayor who I know to be aware of the dire situation. Im also upset with VCU for not putting a boot in our rear ends for not making ANY progress – this is weak leadership on their end as well. This is, after all, their face for the newbies that come crashing into Gladding, Johnson and Rhodes Halls, etc, each August and have to live with this mess.
It’s time to get rid of the running mouths and roll up our sleeves and crack open the city wallet to address these issues.
Charles Todd Woodson.