In a healthy community, every citizen lives within a half-mile of a park—and picnics and barbecues and dogs with Frisbees—at least according to national standards referred to by City Council. The Emma Dickinson neighborhood, bordered by the Clark Fork River, South Third Street and Russell and Reserve streets, fails the half-mile standard. But not for long. The city is six to eight months away from purchasing a park, says Parks and Recreation Open Space Program Manager Jackie Corday.
The park-to-be, a 1.15-acre parcel off River Road near Lafray Lane, is small—what neighborhood resident Bill Comstock calls “a pocket park.” It is, he writes in a letter to the city, “one of the last remaining undeveloped parcels suitable for a shared community space in this neighborhood.”
As the neighborhood has grown, homes have taken the place of green space. Many smaller developments have been designed around cul-de-sacs, making the neighborhood difficult to navigate. Emma Dickinson isn’t laid out on a grid system like the University neighborhood.
The need for a park and the desire to maneuver more easily through the neighborhood clashed briefly last week when City Engineer Steve King asked for an easement through the northernmost portion of the proposed park that would extend Johnson Street. Now, Johnson runs parallel to and between Russell and Reserve streets, but it is not a thoroughfare between South Third Street and River Road. City Council denied the request.
“I just supported [Emma Dickinson residents] because I know they’ve gone through a lot of change quickly,” explains Ward 3’s Lou Ann Crowley.
King says another potential route exists for making Johnson a thoroughfare to relieve traffic on Russell and Reserve streets, but it won’t pan out anytime in the foreseeable future.
A long-term delay is fine with Comstock.
“There’s real concern of residents on Lafray, Johnson and River about the concept of [Johnson] becoming a much more serious, high-volume street,” Comstock says.
Soon, residents will be able to alleviate that concern, and others, by taking a walk in the park.