Web Sites and Documents >> Hartford Courant News Articles >

A Most Uninviting Park

March 20, 2005

When is a park not a park? When it's a forbidding expanse of concrete.

New Ross, County Wexford Park is a barren plaza spanning I-84 just north of downtown Hartford. It epitomizes the folly of well-intentioned but misguided urban planners who forget about the public when designing public spaces. Built in 1995 to hide a portion of the highway, the park was meant to be a physical and psychological bridge between downtown and the Clay Hill neighborhood. It was later named to honor Hartford's "sister city" relationship with New Ross, a river port in southeastern Ireland.

Sadly, the park is more evocative of war-torn Londonderry. It's more barrier than bridge.

The sad thing is that the space has so much potential. Its curving, elevated flowerbeds could offer a welcome bit of green for city residents and workers alike. Benches, basketball courts and painted grids for games of four square abound and should draw hordes of kids looking for a place to play.

But the space's serious design flaws make it an eerie, if not dangerous, place to visit. For one, it's flanked on the north and south sides by formidable concrete walls. Once you're inside the park, you are cut off from the outside world in a way that makes you feel vulnerable, rather than protected.

Second, the park is divided into three sections, done no doubt so traffic on Trumbull and Main streets can flow unimpeded across Chapel Street, which runs hard against the park's southern border. But getting across those streets is daunting, even with crosswalks, and so the open, rather gracious outer sections of the park, which have nice benches and elegant railings, are not used nearly often enough.

Like so many dysfunctional public spaces, this park discourages what it most needs - more use for legitimate recreation. Imagine fleets of Capital Community College students, for example, having lunch or shooting hoops there between classes. Or a critical mass of downtown corporate workers catching rays or tapping away at their laptops there, rather than in the company cafeteria.

As it is, the park is frequented mostly by skateboarders and the occasional substance abuser. The skater boys have renamed it. On the steps beneath the small sign at the park's entrance, some wag has scrawled "Stairway to Heaven." That is very much a matter of opinion.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
Powered by Hartford Public Library  

Includes option to search related Hartford sites.

Advanced Search
Search Tips

Can't Find It? Have a Question?