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Old Farm Hill Park

Old Farm Hill Park is around the corner on the other side of the block on Old Farm Road South. At the time of the Mt. Pleasant 1970 Comprehensive Master Plan, the park was 6.1 acres earmarked for a playground, with the possibility of buying additional acreage (which the town did) to provide for a playfield. It is now 22 acres, but remains undeveloped. The land has frontage on Old Farm Road about the width of a house lot, plus a road-width bit of frontage one house further. The rest of the 22 acres is surrounded by the backs of people's back yards.

When David and his first wife moved into this house in the mid-1970s, it was possible to go for walks in the park. As nearly as I can tell, it is former farmland, gradually being reclaimed by forest and underbrush. Three years ago, when I tried to find my way in to have a look at the park as a possible place for nature walks, I found it heavily overgrown with briars. Also, the road frontage is quite steep, leading immediately into a marshy area. So the main frontage of the park is a quite treacherous way to enter. I've looked at the parks department's topo maps. The road strip is a much gentler way in. However, it is overgrown with chest-height underbrush at present. So for me, this park is, in it's current form, quite unusable.

This does not mean that it isn't being used. For one thing, I'm sure that it is heavy used by the local deer population. This sounds like a good thing, but we are on the main deerpath and so not only do the deer eat most things we might wish to plant in the yard, but they carry deer ticks which carry Lyme Disease. This household has had three (all serious) cases of Lyme disease. So even though deer are pretty, we are not big fans.

Also, I'm told by the head if the parks department that there are bike trails and such immediately in back of the adjacent houses. So, to some extent, neighborhood children use, or have used, at least the outside edges. Also, a number of the houses adjacent the park are of the type that have a big front yard, providing the estate-style entry, combined with a small back yard. The undeveloped park contributes to the illusion of an estate by giving the sense that the homeowner is the master of all he surveys. So this undeveloped park is used, after a fashion, but only by people with adjacent yards.

It's perimeters are entailed in much the same way as the shoreline of Tercia Lake, the nearby lake I mentioned in yesterday's post. However, Old Farm Hill Park is public land, paid for by the taxes of town residents.

Why has it remained undeveloped? I don't know the deep history of it, however I do know that when Peter was a newborn, we got a little flyer in our mailbox from a group promoting the idea of putting a small walk-to only playground in Old Farm Hill Park. Before the group had even had time to present a formal proposal, the people with homes adjacent the park rose up and mobbed a town council meeting, angrily shouting that they did not want the park developed.

What I'm given to understand is that they had two main objections:

(1) Increased traffic on Old Farm Road South. This is a legitimate objection, given that there are no sidewalks on Old Farm Road South. The overall safety of that road would be improved by the addition of sidewalks, even if there were a developed park.

(2) Adjacent residents wanted to retain their woodland views. Nothing in the meek proposal by a group of local mothers would have interfered with the views of any of the parks' neighbors, especially since they weren't even proposing that a road in be built. Nonetheless, the owners of illusory estates fought hard to preserve the illusion. From their perspective any development of the park was a potential threat.

Several years ago, I went over the topological map with the head of the parks department. The park is actually large enough that one could have a playground and several baseball fields in it without interfering with the views of adjacent neighbors.

For now, the park remains undeveloped.

PETER QUOTE OF THE DAY: Peter, watching WALKING WITH CAVEMEN, says Mommy, one of our ancestors just ate a tarantula!