Monday, December 20, 2010

Harpeth Knoll Park: A Review

Posted by on Mon, Dec 20, 2010 at 5:37 AM

In Short:

Location: Take Sawyer Brown to Harpeth Knoll
Size of Park: Medium large
Crowds: Small
Approximate Age of Patrons: Parents and small children
Topics of Conversation: "Oh my god! Did I hit that dog?!"
Stray Dogs Seen: None. Dogs who obviously had a home who were wandering the park and running out into traffic and scaring the crap out of me? Two.
Types of Vehicles in Parking Lots: Just mine
Perceived Safety: In general, high, but because of the dogs, very low
Number of Gunshots Heard: None
Dog Friendliness: Should be high, but loose dogs make it a problem
Number of pitbulls sighted: Just mine
Accessibility: High
Incorporation of Local History: None
Recommended Patrons: People who like jungle gyms, people who hate trees and baseball

I will start out by saying that we have leash laws in this city for a reason. The main reason would be so that your damn fool dogs don't run into the street where I have to slam on my brakes to keep from hitting them.

The second reason is so that they don't run around your neighborhood terrorizing the people at the local park.

Here's the thing. You might have the sweetest dogs known to mankind, but, if you are not there with them, there's no way to know whether it's safe to open my car door when they're right outside my car or whether I need to run like hell when they spot me at the park.

So, yes, I became a little grouchy trying to review Harpeth Knoll Park because of the loose dogs. I felt especially bad because there was a family at the park already. When I drove up, it caused the dogs to come out of their yard and into the street and then into the park, which seemed to lead to the family packing up their kids and leaving the park.

If those were my dogs, I would be mortified. And in the spirit of the season, I'm going to assume that they were safely ensconced in their fenced-in backyard but got out, as dogs are prone to do, and not that someone would knowingly let their dogs out the front door to roam around the neighborhood unsupervised.

Anyway, Harpeth Knoll. It's an odd park. It has incredible playground equipment that looks to be in great shape. It even has a swing that looks almost like a car seat for very small children. The playground equipment was surrounded at each corner with a tall red pole with a small loop at the top, like maybe they could put up a sun-shielding tarp in the summer.

But there were almost no trees in the park, just a small stand of the rat of the tree family — hackberries. And under the hackberries was one picnic table and a garbage can. The picnic table was chained to the hackberry. I don't know what the picnic table did to deserve to be chained to a hackberry, but I think we have to assume it was vile indeed.

The park is actually on a knoll (or there is a knoll in the park), which is nice, but on the top of the knoll is, I think, the most neglected ball field I've seen during this project. On the one hand, that's terrible news for the kids in the neighborhood who might actually want a non-crabgrass-riddled infield or benches that haven't been gnawed by termites. On the other hand, at least kids in crappy neighborhoods can take comfort that even kids in middle-class neighborhoods have shitty ball fields.

So this park is weird. I've been to a couple of parks that are just aesthetically lovely. You can tell that someone put some real thought into how people might want to use the park, and what kinds of elements might make the park experience most pleasing.

Harpeth Knoll is pretty much the exact opposite. It should be a lovely park. It's in a great location. It's got a nice, gentle roll to the land, and it's in a very walkable neighborhood filled with kids. But there's that playground equipment in one corner, the neglected ball field in the middle, and the chained-up table between them.

And it seems like you could even have a large park with only three things in it, but they don't feel tied together in any way. It almost feels like a bunch of empty lots more than a park. I just hope the folks in this neighborhood never get over to Charlotte Park to see how nicely a similar sized and situated park can be designed, or there will be a riot.

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