Community Post

Plum Tree Park Problems – How to Pitch In

It’s the Central District’s hidden, forgotten, and neglected park. If you mention Plum Tree Park to most neighborhood residents, they’ll probably ask “Where’s that?” Obscured by trees along its street-facing side, it occupies a few lots in the middle of 26th Ave between Olive and the pedestrian stairs of Howell.

Angela Giliam lives within view of the park and has been hoping for years that it would get some love from the city to make it an amenity for people in the area. One of her prime concerns is the lack of lighting. It’s very dark on that part of the street, and that attracts late night crowds that bring a lot of noise and other problems along with them. The high front retaining wall and dense foliage only add to the problem.

Angela says that two years ago the city presented plans for a park makeover that included re-arranged landscaping and new walking paths. But after a short period of outreach, nothing else was heard from city officials (we’ve got calls in to get more details from the parks department and will follow up with another story when we hear back). Instead, things seem to have gone backwards, with the park losing its trash can, water fountain, and benches.

Knowledgeable neighborhood leaders have told me that parks improvements rarely come only from the city. In most cases they require long-term organization and pressure from neighborhood groups, plus a generous amount of private fundraising. And think again if you’re hoping that last year’s parks levy could help – almost all of our area’s funds are going to refurbish Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center and the art museum in Volunteer Park.

Would you like to join up with Angela to push for Plum Tree Park improvements? Leave a comment below and we’ll put you in touch with her.

0 thoughts on “Plum Tree Park Problems – How to Pitch In

  1. (As I remember it). Initial plans for Homer Harris Park included selling off Plum Tree Park to raise money for Homer Harris. I recall a dispute in the planning for Homer Harris between those who wanted an “active” park with a busy kids’ play area at the open (north) end of the park versus those who wanted a quiet contemplative park (I think they lived near to the proposed busy noisy end). I personally supported the “active” plan, as I was concerned that the dealers whom we hoped would soon be displaced from Deano’s would relocate their business there, and wanted the park to be full of legitimate users.

    The compromise offered (aided by the $1 million + anonymous donation to Homer Harris Park) was that Homer Harris park would not have active play equipment AND that nearby Plum Tree Park would not be sold but would be renovated with active play equipment.

    Remarks:

    1) given how close the adjacent houses are at Plum Tree, this seemed a bad idea to me [Homer Harris much more open].

    2) I visit Plum Tree occasionally: nothing happened for years. The play equipment in the photo above is new to me.

  2. Park improvements are always a good thing, but what specifically do you want people to do?

  3. We walk to the park almost every evening with our dogs. We were surprised at the recent “renovation” which added a play structure that we have only seen kids using twice. We would love to be part of the plan to improve this space . . .

  4. they need to get rid of plum park auction the site place the newly acquired equptment at the park across ymca thats what needs to be done…two parks within 1 block of each other is a waste ogf money and time, or vice versa

  5. If Homer Harris is supposed to be peaceful and contemplative (no kids) then maybe Plum Tree should focus on attracting kids. I love having a park in walking distance, but my kids never want to go there because the play structure is “lame”. They used to have swings and a structure with a long slide, now there are no swings and the structure has a short slide. I’m guessing a re-landscaping to open up the front of the park visually plus a lot more interesting play structures qould attract more families. Maybe some local artists and craftsmen could contribute design ideas, also garden elements such as flowers or attractive plants would liven the place up. If I lived next to the park, I’d prefer the sound of kids playing to drug loitering.

  6. I was sadden when they removed the benches from Plum Tree Park. I have lived a half block from the park for nearly 30 years. It used to be a quiet day spot to sit and read, etc. No place to sit now. There was also a basketball hoop on the alley side. I can understand why locals wanted that removed.

  7. This situation has actually been a source of frustration for me, so I’m glad to see it as a topic here.

    I recall the active park v. contemplative park discussions during the Homer Harris Park planning sessions I attended at the Garfield Community Center. One woman (who did NOT live near the park) was particularly vocal about the elderly in the neighborhood needing a quiet space. In my experience, however, many elderly people enjoy watching children at play, so even though I was not a parent at the time, I disagreed with her position.

    Andrew, can you elaborate on the compromise you describe? I ask because the compromise described at the meetings was that there would be a small play area limited to one end of Homer Harris Park. We were even given catalogs of play equipment and asked to flag pages with the types of items we’d like to see in the park. So you can imagine my surprise (and disappointment) at seeing the metal and concrete art items that were installed instead. (I’m not passing judgment on the aesthetics — in fact, I’m pretty fond of the concrete cat in particular — but rather on the poor use of the allotted space.)

    I was told by a parks department representative, don’t worry, there’s Plum Tree park nearby, we’ll be improving the play area there, kids can play there. But that park is concealed from the street. I do think the new play structure there is a huge improvement as the old equipment was pretty ragged, and my toddler daughter has used it a few times, but a play structure like that at Homer Harris would have made so much more sense.

    All in all, I have to say my attempt to be an involved neighbor was a disappointing experience.

  8. I’m always a big supporter of the quiet, contemplative style of parks. Concentrate the “active” areas at a few parks, playgrounds and whatnot are generally social places anyway, so it’s better to put all the social people in one place.

    Plenty of playgrounds and activity fields at the neighboorhood schools, anyway. Calm spaces are a precious resource in the city, even if it means sometimes people go there to smoke the pot.

  9. Agreed. When my kids were little, we used to play at plum tree regularly. They “upgraded”- changed the equipment, and it was much less interesting. Either way, we rarely encountered anyone else playing at the park.

    It is a sweet little pocket park, I’ll show up for the work party when we get to that stage.

  10. “even if it means sometimes people go there to smoke the pot”

    Something tells me the neighbors really aren’t up in arms about people smoking “the” pot – rather that people are dealing drugs.

    Plum Tree is an odd location and a difficult site – a “quiet contemplative” park there equates, unfortunately, to “magnet for people doing things the neighborhood really doesn’t need”.

    And anyone who says “plenty of playgrounds and activity fields at neighborhood schools” clearly hasn’t been following the District’s school closure plans, and doesn’t understand how those spaces work. Try to understand multiple sides of who uses parks for what purpose.

  11. I live around the corner from Plum Tree Park (27th and Howell). In my opinion a successful park, even a small one like Plum Tree Park, can balance multiple kinds of uses (active and passive) while being safe and enjoyable for all kinds of neighbors. Plum Tree Park is especially challenged by the steep slope which limits access and sightlines. Having “eyes on the street” and a stronger connection to the street will contribute greatly to an increased sense of safety.

    I am a professional landscape architect and would gladly help push for improvements to this park. Please put me in touch with Angela.

  12. I was only peripherally involved. I wrote a letter of support for the active park idea. E-mail me (tay[email protected]) and we can chat and pool our memories.
    Andrew

  13. It would be nice if the folks who live around the park and want to use it could decide these things. Really cool to have some mad landscaping skills to help.

    I also agree that it is not about a little pot. I was told on no uncertain terms by long time residents when I moved nearby three years ago not to go there, and that they never take their children there/allow their children to go there because they find needles and used rubbers. I know, I know, people ‘should have’ started a cleanup brigade and do things to take the park back for the community. I’m not going to tell that to a Mom working two jobs. And, I do not view myself as a user of those parks, even though I live within a couple of blocks. I tend to take a longer flatter walk up to the Arboretum.

    I do see lots of folks of all ages at Homer Harris, hope Plum Tree gets love from the people who would use it and I hope those who will utilize it get to decide how it will be.

  14. That greenbelt is the only thing between me and houses sliding down the hill. There is already a big pile of mud in the alley above me because we have paved or built on every other available square inch.

    Call it all one park if you think two is too many.

  15. It is great to see the multiple responses to the article about Plum Tree Park. Perhaps we can all work together to get the trash can, water fountain and benches reinstated so that people will not treat the park like a dog run in the daytime and a smoking den at night. City officials also need to replant the plum trees so that so that they do not shade/hide the park from the street. It would be great if the park were to morph into a truly community space–where everyone felt welcome. Is there a neighborhood council nearby residents can reactivate and that would help the city move forward?

  16. We have a neighborhood email list of folks who live NE of Plum Tree Park, centered on 27th between Denny and Howell.

    And the park is just south of the boundry of that map….

  17. I am sure folks would be welcome and get advice from the CC living within a block of the borders! Gosh.

    It’s also in the realm of the new Neighborhood group centered at 23rd and Union. And some Madison Miller folks might be users of the park.

    It’s useful to reach out and attend these CC meetings to find out:
    – who might be people who may be interested in working on the project
    – technical upport about sources of city funding, contact at the city, etc. With the budget stuff, it’s getting trickier.
    – Letters of support when the group does have a plan and wants to get funding.

  18. you dont wont black’s having no funny there ant shyt we done to that park you just wont us out da cd crazy never would have belive it