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Working group to present recommendations to improve Dogwood memorial access

Charlottesville City Council will receive a recommendation to allocate more than $2 million to address accessibility issues at the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial.

The council will review a report from a working group during its meeting on Monday. No action is planned based on the recommendations.

The working group was formed in May after one of the memorial’s founders wrote a letter to the council that blasted city staff for not correcting problems.

The memorial, built in 1966, was the first in the country dedicated to those who died in the Vietnam War. It was redesigned to fit at the corner of the John W. Warner Parkway and the U.S. 250 Bypass in 2015 when the parkway was constructed.

Since then, access has been an ongoing concern.

According to the group’s written report, the redesign created some of those issues. Although the memorial wasn’t relocated, it was raised about 12 feet, which increased the incline needed to get to the site and added difficulty for people with mobility concerns.

The memorial doesn’t have its own parking lot. Visitors currently are directed to park at the nearby Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad building and take sidewalks across a busy intersection to a paved path up the hill.

The report says that access got worse when the adjacent wading pool was closed and replaced with a skate park, removing an entrance off the U.S. 250 Bypass.

That path is no longer in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the report. The asphalt has warped and inclines are steeper than the law allows.

The city could fix the inclines for $20,000, but the group recommends exceeding minimum requirements. The report calls for a complete reconstruction of the trail with new grading and four landing areas.

Rebuilding the trail would cost between $100,000 and $125,000.

The trail is considered a short-term solution, but in the long term, the group recommends constructing a parking lot on the east side of the parkway and installing a pedestrian bridge to the memorial.

The parking lot would have 24 to 35 spaces that could be used for the memorial, adjacent trail system and eastern portions of McIntire Park.

The lot and bridge are estimated at about $2 million if the bridge stops at the trail. However, the group also included a proposal that would come with a longer bridge that goes directly to the memorial.

City staff did not estimate the cost of a longer span.

The bridge would be eligible for state funding, but it’s unclear when the money would be available. If officials want to construct the parking lot and bridge in the next five years, it will require exclusively city funds and philanthropic donations, the report says.

The group considered vehicle access off the U.S. 250 Bypass, but abandoned the idea over costs and safety concerns. The group didn’t make a formal recommendation about an on-call wheelchair-accessible golf cart, but said such a system could address some issues.

The report does not call for council to make a decision during Monday’s meeting. It also does not include a timeline for any future decision.

The city has taken several short-term measures to address access, according to the report.

Signs designated handicap parking spaces at the rescue squad now meet ADA regulations. The city has also added wayfinding signs and improved signal timing to allow more time for pedestrians to cross intersections.


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