Location: Down Paragon Mills Lane off of Reischa Drive, NOT Reisha
Size of Park: Medium
Crowds: Just us
Approximate Age of Patrons: People in their 30s
Topics of Conversation: "It's weird that companies are bragging about being responsible for this shithole."
Stray Dogs Seen: None
Types of Vehicles in Parking Lots: No parking lots
Perceived Safety: Between the gang graffiti and the open sewer pits? Low.
Number of Gunshots Heard: None
Dog Friendliness: Fine
Number of pitbulls sighted: Just mine
Accessibility: It seemed OK, but why would you want to go here?
Incorporation of Local History: None
Recommended Patrons: People who wonder what I think a truly terrible park looks like.
I've been dreading doing Providence Park for a while, because while every other park is mapped on Metro's website, Providence Park is not. Sure, sometimes the map is only taking you in the general area of the park, but at least it gives you a place to guess from. I couldn't even find a "Reisha Drive" on Google Maps.
But when I was looking at the map to go to Paragon Mills Park a few weeks ago, I noticed a Reischa Drive. And, ta da, there was Providence Park.
Believe me, once you've see the park, you'll understand why Metro doesn't want outsiders to be able to find it easily. Hell, if I ran Metro Parks, I'd start a rumor that Providence Park died or ran off to join the circus. Something. Anything to keep from having to 'fess up that this is an actual park in our park system.
I don't think this park is the Parks Department's fault, though. There's a big stone monument to the "Park Partners" with a list of all of the people and entities that should be ashamed to have inflicted this park on a neighborhood that desperately needs a good one — AmSouth Bank, BBA Fiberweb, Bridgestone Americas, HCA, Littlejohn Engineering Associates, Metro Nashville/Mayor Bill Purcell, Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity, Pan American Electric, SESAC, SunTrust Bank, The Tennessean, Union Planters Bank, and Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis. I think the Parks Department just got saddled with this park after it was built.
I'm not sure I have the verbal skills to give you a full picture of the problems with this park. First of all, the larger neighborhood appears to be a solidly working-class neighborhood with one- and two-story brick ranches. The lots aren't huge, but they're not small. The neighborhood right around the park is filled with newer construction — small one-story vinyl homes with brick or stone accents. Except for the ubiquitous mildew so common on siding here in Nashville, the houses look to be in OK shape.
The houses are clearly designed to be affordable for the working poor. Which is great. We need neighborhoods where poor working families can afford to live. The lots are very, very tiny, so the houses are very close together. The neighborhood is hilly, so even if you have a back yard, it's no guarantee your kids will be able to play anything other than "chase everything that rolled downhill." This is a neighborhood that needs a park.
So did the people who designed the neighborhood look around for an area that could hold a park of the size this neighborhood needs, and place that park there? No. Clearly, what they did is find the parts of the neighborhood where they wouldn't be able to put houses anyway because of water issues. And they stuck the long, skinny park there, back behind people's houses. If the neighborhood were a donut, the park is the hole.
There's no good place to park, and except for one entry way off of a playground on a corner, the other ways into the park all feel like (or obviously are) through people's backyards. Even in the park, it feels creepily like you're just standing in folks' backyards.
The park winds through the low spot in the neighborhood in almost proto-greenway style. But unlike the greenways, which normally feature sturdy walkways and safe safety features, Providence Park's walkways are already warping and buckling. They're made of that fake plastic stuff, and it has not held up well in the weather at all. Almost nothing in the park has. If the stone is right and the park was built in 2004, this stuff in this park must be some of the most weathered in the shortest amount of time.
That's not all. The park is located in the middle of these large, open ... I don't know what you call them. Sewer pits, maybe? They're low points full of trees. One of them has a stream at the bottom. But in the middle of each, there's a tall tower, maybe three or four feet high, with sewer grates at the top. In one of the pits, I saw a tower with a manhole cover. The pits are filled with garbage. One even had a shopping cart in it.
These pits are surrounded (poorly) by fencing, and a sign says, "Danger: Keep Out." But the padlocked gate by the playground equipment has been busted off its hinges, and it hangs open enough that a child could easily get through it.
There were two different areas with playground equipment, but honestly, with the busted fencing around the sewer pits and the warped fake wood on the walkways, I wouldn't feel comfortable letting my enemy's children play here. My god. All I can say is that if you do bring kids here, make sure they are all tied together and tethered to you like a mountain-climbing expedition so that you can keep track of everyone.