Neighborhood groups are fed up with barriers to park access

Neighborhood groups are fed up with barriers to park access

Hornets' Nest Park. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

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More than 20 local neighborhood groups are joining forces to ask the county to make it easier to secure public park space for community events.

Driving the news: The organizations, representing communities mostly in east Charlotte along with one west side group, will tell county commissioners tonight that the process of obtaining a permit to use parks is costly and cumbersome.

  • “The county should view parks as an essential community service for all neighborhoods, not a revenue generator that only a few more affluent groups can afford,” says David Hale, former president of the Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association.

Why it matters: Charlotte consistently ranks near the bottom of U.S. cities for parks in the annual for the Trust for Public Lands survey. Now it’s home to bubbling tension between the Park and Recreation Department and neighborhood groups who say it’s too hard to access the parks we have.

  • Plaza Midwood’s neighborhood association typically appoints one person with legal background with the sole job of handling permits through the parks and the county.
  • “I thought, if we have to do all of this and we have the resources [based on being an increasingly wealthy neighborhood], it is impossible for smaller neighborhoods, or less affluent ones, to do the same,” Hale said.

The big picture: The neighborhood groups will argue tonight that fees to rent parks are out of line, especially when compared with other cities.

  • For large community events, like Plaza Midwood’s Midwood Maynia and Fall Crawl, which are free and open to the public, Mecklenburg County charges upward of $1,000 in permitting fees. In addition, groups are required to pay for police to secure events and insurance, which can add up to more than $2,000.
  • In Atlanta, permit fees for a similar event would cost around $250.
  • “If Commonwealth Morningside wanted to do something like [Midwood Maynia], and they don’t have mandatory dues from their neighbors and they don’t have a large populous neighborhood, it’s very difficult,” said Hale.

Of note: It’s difficult to compare event costs to other cities because Mecklenburg county doesn’t have set prices, which neighborhood groups say is part of the problem.

What’s next: The groups want the county to allow for four free events per year for nonprofits that don’t charge admission to those events, plus:

  • A re-evaluation of event requirements like insurance and police presence.
  • A streamlined process for applications.
  • And a better working relationship between community organizations and commissioners.

Who’s involved: The 22 neighborhood associations include those from the Belmont neighborhood to Chantilly to Grier Heights to Howie Acres to NoDa to Plaza-Shamrock.

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