Officials seek to dispel fears, draw more people to Nevin Park
on September 17, 2010
Nevin Park may have a new face, but some residents are still hesitant to visit the Iron Triangle spot once notorious for gang violence, drug sales, and prostitution. Despite a $3.4 million renovation in 2008, the park still struggles to attract users.
“We need to make sure people feel like it’s a safe place and that if they go there, there is something for them to do and they’re not just standing around,” said City Manager Bill Lindsay.
At a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting earlier this month, recreation director Keith Jabari reported on city efforts to improve the park and its community center. Officials have acknowledged that not enough people use the park, the programs at the center are disorganized, and large groups of young men loitering in the park tend to steer families away.
On many Saturdays, park staff say, children do use the park. But on Labor Day, while other Richmond parks were crowded with families, Nevin Park stood nearly empty.
Anthony Allen, vice president of The Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council, said the city’s action is needed to restore confidence in the center.
“It was a haven for a lot of criminal activity dope dealing, prostitution—it was really bad around here,” Allen said. “Once the park was reopened we have been working really hard not to allow that same behavior to come back.”
Officials now have a six-month plan of action to improve what they say is a park that should be better serving residents.
The first step is re-organizing the way Nevin’s community center is run. City officials hired Alicia Nightengale, former coordinator at Booker T. Anderson Community Center, to handle the job. Nightengale said she will train staff, improve marketing, offer new classes, maintain entrance and exit logs at the center, and oversee repairs. She and her staff will also develop a children’s after school program with new toys and a costume corner. A new children’s room in the Nevin center will open in October.
Nightengale cautions, though, that the changes will take time.
“The major thing is timing and working on re-gaining the trust of the community,” Nightengale said. “Nevin Park has had such a bad reputation.”
Neighborhood residents hope the city’s plan will change that. “We want the park to be used for recreation and relaxation for families,” said Anthony Allen of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council. “We want it to be a nucleus for the community. Like sacred ground—we have to protect this.”
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