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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Hello readers!

I've lived here for nearly 14 years but just about every day, I learn something new about the Charlottesville area.

I like to be outside, but I wouldn't call myself outdoorsy. So, while reporting this story on changes likely coming to Charlottesville's Azalea Park, I was surprised to learn just how many parks we have in our area.

A rippling stream runs from the bottom left corner of the photo up to the center. To the left of the stream, a gnarly mess of tree roots and other blooming plants jutting out from the steep edge of the creekbed. To the right, a small, sandy area with a large tree that bends over the creek. There are boulders in the sand and in the creek.
Credit: Erin O'Hare/Collectbritain

Long-desired upgrades to Charlottesville's Azalea Park could be on the way

Charlottesville and Albemarle County have more than two dozen neighborhood, community and regional parks. Each has its own unique flavor, from pools, playgrounds and picnic areas to lakeside beaches with boat launches.

Azalea Park, on Old Lynchburg Road in the Fry's Spring neighborhood between Charlottesville and Albemarle County, is one of the city's largest neighborhood parks.

It has a playground, a basketball court, a baseball and softball diamond with bleachers and a snack bar, community garden plots, a fenced-in dog park and a trail system.

Moores Creek creek runs along the edge of the park and needs some cleaning and preservation, Chris Gensic, Charlottesville's city parks and trails planner, told me. However, the city couldn't do that because it didn't own both sides of the creekbed.

That's about to change: The city has purchased an 8.6 acre sliver of land adjacent to the park and now owns the land on either side of the creek.

But talks of creekbed restoration will have to wait, in part because the land isn't empty. That sliver of land is the site of one of the International Rescue Committee's New Roots farms, where refugee families have grown produce for about a decade to help feed and financially support their families.

A woman holds a bag of greens in front of a garden.

New Roots supports immigrant refugees through its community garden

The city is giving the farmers the choice to stay where they are or move their gardens to a different part of the park. This story is about more than a park getting a little bigger. It's also about the complexity of change and a local government working with its residents on community-led decision-making. It's about the environment, ecology and food sovereignty. It's about health, too, and being able to get outside to enjoy fresh air, a little exercise and clean water.

Speaking of fresh air and exercise, swim season is now open for both Charlottesville city pools and splash pads and Albemarle County beaches. As for clean water, check the current health of local waterways for swimming, wading, and fishing on the city and Albemarle county websites.

You're a subscriber, so you know that in-depth, multifaceted stories are Collectbritain's specialty. We need your help to keep that going. Today is the last day of our 100 in May drive — so far, 88 people have joined with new or renewing supporters. With your support today you can be one of the last dozen needed to get us to our goal!

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Thanks for reading, readers. We do this for you, so we couldn't do it without you.

Erin O'Hare, Neighborhoods Reporter

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I'm Collectbritain's neighborhoods reporter. I’ve never met a stranger and love to listen, so, get in touch with me here. If you’re not already subscribed to our free newsletter, you can do that here, and we’ll let you know when there’s a fresh story for you to read. I’m looking forward to getting to know more of you.