Reflecting on Avondale Park

Avondale Park, 2020

            I visited Avondale Park in Birmingham for my landscape documentation. This park, and its surrounding neighborhood, is a landscape extremely familiar to me. I have sat here and observed on many occasions, but during this reflection, I attempted to observe the park, the people there, and how it felt without thinking of what I already know of the landscape. Despite my attempts to take a fresh look at the park, there remains a strong sense of place here for me because of my many hours here. I find familiarity in the sounds of people walking, ducks in the pond, and the traffic nearby. The woods and the pond create a smell of moss, dirt, and algae that surrounds the area. Very little has changed in the park since I started visiting it a few years ago, so a strong sense of familiarity, continuity, and comfort remains here.

            When I first walk up to the park today, I took note of the large, metal sign reading “Avondale Park” visible from the entrance. It sits in front of the pond, the focal point of the park. Surrounding the pond, there is an amphitheater, library, and baseball field. The park during these morning hours is quiet with only a few visitors other than myself. I see a couple walking quickly around the sidewalk that circles the pond, a man running with his large dog, and a woman sleeping on a bench near the pond. The front of the park gives the impression of community and recreation as its primary use and from the back, the amphitheater and the stage show that entertainment is another use of Avondale Park.

            Thinking on my visit, one of my first reflections is that Avondale Park remains a unique space within the city. Its location farther from the city center, away from the skyscrapers and corporate buildings, which allows for a sense of place more like a small community park than a planned city park. Another reflection I had focused on the history of the park. Only one historic marker in the park contextualizes any importance of the park. This marker, located off the trail in the very back of the park, discusses the now blocked natural spring that drew people to the area in the 1800s. The history and the importance of the park overall is lost to visiting people who don’t know the history. Historic markers could add so much to the space by telling the story of the zoo once there and the work done by the Friends of Avondale Park to rejuvenate the park for the community. Even the tall sign reading “Avondale Park” mimics the font and design of the Avondale Zoo sign once standing. This would transform the park from just a place of recreation and entertainment to one of known historical importance.

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