The green space next to the Chesterfield Fire Station, on Maple Road, will be reviewed by the Birmingham Parks and Recreation Board for its potential as a park.

The green space next to the Chesterfield Fire Station, on Maple Road, will be reviewed by the Birmingham Parks and Recreation Board for its potential as a park.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Board to review potential park near Chesterfield Fire Station

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 11, 2021


BIRMINGHAM — After 10 months, a resident petition and several persuasive emails to the city manager, the Birmingham Parks and Recreation Board has been tasked with exploring the possibility of a park next to the Chesterfield Fire Station.

It was last July when Kate Bongiorno, a resident of nearby Quarton Estates, reached out to then-City Manager Joe Valentine and the rest of the City Commission with the idea to create a playground out of the nearly half-acre of land adjacent to the station on Maple Road, west of downtown.

“The space next to Fire Station 2 has ample space to create a safe, pleasant, inviting space for recreation and relaxation. It has easy pedestrian and bike access from Fairfax, Chesterfield and Maple roads. In addition, it boasts street parking, complementary nearby local businesses to visit for a snack while playing, a tony new fire station that is well-known by children in the neighborhood, and nice, established features of shade, safe distance from the roads, and access to the Fire Department in case of emergency,” Bongiorno wrote last summer.

Her letter included a petition of around 35 residents on board with the idea. At the time, though, the city was preparing to propose a $11.2 million parks and recreation bond to voters. Since the park was not part of the already budgeted plan pitched to residents as part of that bond, the commission agreed to take up the topic again after the election.

“The success of the parks and recreation ballot proposal in November reinforced that residents are committed to their parks, and while this park was not specifically part of the initiative, I am hopeful that, with some strategic budgeting, creativity and community collaboration, the resources will be identified to fund the playground,” Bongiorno told the Eagle in an email.  “It is worth mentioning that the Quarton Lake Estates neighborhood is one of the few neighborhoods in Birmingham that doesn’t currently have a green play space (which is why I suggested the idea in the first place); so introducing one will both enrich the neighborhood and boost Birmingham’s city playgrounds to an impressive count of 15.”

In a memo to the city manager, Public Works Director Lauren Wood explained that the 1.36-acre area on Maple Road, between Chesterfield and Fairfax, is currently zoned as public property, which could accommodate a park.

“Some park elements proposed at the corner of this parcel are an all-inclusive playground structure, benches, picnic tables and a gazebo, among other suggestions,” Wood wrote. “There is not a concept plan, to date, for the proposed suggested site amenities. Of course, this would be a good starting point in order to provide estimated construction costs.”

The matter came before the City Commission during its regular meeting April 26, and commissioners unanimously voted to move the topic to the Parks and Recreation Board for review, with a few added specifications.

“I think we need to add (to the resolution) that the board should take into consideration the needs of the fire station,” said Commissioner Stewart Sherman.

Commissioner Mark Nickita agreed, adding that he thinks the board should map out not only how the park could come to be, but also why.

“I think we’ve got to question or ask ourselves what is the (purpose) for the site?” he said. “I think it’s more of a fundamental question before site amenities, and of course, costs. Now (if the park) becomes one of a network of parks, see how it fits not only in the neighborhood but the system overall.”

That question could be answered in part by community input, according to Commissioner Clinton Baller.

“This seems to me a good opportunity to look at ways the commission can collaborate with the parks board and administration, and maybe employ the new (Engage Birmingham) tool to in some way work together on this, rather than the different model where the parks board works in a vacuum then comes back to us,” Baller said.

Commissioner Rackeline Hoff said she had “several considerations” the board should weigh while examining the issue. In a follow-up email, Hoff told the Eagle her concerns include the needs of the Fire Department, including whether they might need space for expansion in the future; safety and the location’s proximity to traffic on Maple Road; noise that inherently comes from fire equipment and vehicles, as well as monthly weather sirens located on the station’s property; and parking for visitors of the park, which she worries may spill into the neighborhood.

“I have several concerns which I’ve related to Lauren Wood. She responded to me that they will be taken into consideration by the Parks and Rec Board when it discusses this issue,” Hoff said in an email. “I feel confident that these issues will be explored thoroughly by the Parks and Rec Board. If not, I will certainly ask if and when this park proposal comes before the commission.”

Though a donation program to fund the park hasn’t been proposed as of yet, Wood said in her memo that could be a potential source of funding for a future park development. Initial funding and budget implications for upkeep will be part of the Parks and Recreation Board’s responsibility to explore.