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Parks History

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History of Parks and Grounds

In the early 1900's, the citizens of Charlottesville lacked a centralized parks or recreation system.  Residents found a variety of other venues for their leisure activities. The private Frye Springs Hotel and Park sponsored an Outdoor Theatre and Dance Pavilion where plays and dances were performed. Monticello held annual celebrations on Jefferson's birthday and the Fourth of July. Speeches and patriotic programs were also offered by the Daughters of the American Revolution. In 1923, the Fourth of July celebration was moved to the home of John Armstrong Chanoler, one of Charlottesville's most eccentric and generous citizens. The celebration consisted of food, games, and fireworks. John Chanoler also set up a free movie theatre at his home, Merrie Mills. Paul Goodloe McIntire provided the impetus for many speeches and parades.

The University of Virginia offered "farmer trains" where farmers would gather to show their produce and study exhibits about improving farming methods. 

A Mardi Gras was sponsored by the American Legion each June in which shows, riding contests, and dancing were highlights of the evening.

By the mid 1920's there was a definite and growing need for city-wide recreation programs and facilities. The Mother's Club, recognizing that Paul McIntire had donated Emancipation Park (formerly known as Lee), Justice Park (formerly know as Jackson) and Belmont Parks, appealed to him to donate additional land to the city for the purpose of developing parks. On January 22, 1926, McIntire donated the land which would become Washington and McIntire Parks. The Mother's Club and McIntire persuaded the city to establish a board of citizens to develop a Department of Recreation.

Mrs. R. L. Currier was the first director of the Department of Recreation, established in 1933. She was employed part-time at a salary of $50 per month. The charter members of the recreation committee were: Mrs. Tuthill, Mrs. Burruss, Mrs. Walters, Judge Groves, Dr. Dwight Chalmers, Frank Edwards, R.C. Heidloff, Frank Hartman, George Eutsler and L.P. Ludwig. Mrs. Tuthill and R.C. Heidloff served on the board until 1950, and Dr. Chalmers was the first chairman. The board was responsible for providing all the play equipment and some salaries needed to operate the Recreation Department.

By June of 1934, the Recreation Department had a budget of $3,000. From 1937 to 1950, the city gave the department $75,363 and the department made an additional $91,059 from charges to special events, rental of facilities, donations and gifts. In 1949, a 10 member Recreation Advisory Board came into being and the city assumed financial responsibility. This board has since evolved into the Parks And Recreation Advisory Board.

The Parks and Cemetery Division and the Recreation Department merged in 1973 to become the Parks and Recreation Department. Previous to this the Parks and Cemetery Division had been part of the Public Works Department. As the City has grown, its needs have grown and changed too; in response, the City split the Parks and Recreation Department into two divisions. One became the Recreation Division and the other is the Parks and Grounds Division. In February 2005, Parks, Recreation & Golf merged into one department under the  new Direction of Mike Svetz.

The Parks division is responsible for maintaining and improving the physical appearance of the city including its parks, playgrounds, thoroughfares, school grounds and the Downtown Mall. The division is also responsible for the operation and maintenance of two public city cemeteries: Maplewood and Oakwood.

Timeline of Park Acquisitions

1917 Emancipation Park (formerly known as Lee Park)
1919 Justice Park (formerly known as Jackson Park)
1921 Belmont Park
1926 McIntire Park
1926 Washington Park
1930 Quarry Park
1945 Meade Park
1946 Tonsler Park
1949 Fifeville Park
1952 Rives Park
1952 Greenleaf Park
1955 Forest Hills Park
1960 Rothwell Park
1963 Meadowcreek Park
1965 Azalea Park 
1965 Greenbrier Park 
1970 Pen Park 
1971 Jordan Park
1974 McGuffey Park
1974 Riverview Park 
1975 Northeast Park 
1979 Bailey Park
1979 Ivy Creek Natural Area 
1980 Starr Hill Park
1990 Darden Towe Park
1999 Ragged Mountain