Despite almost unanimous negative public feedback and debate on the merits of entertaining additional dialogue, Borough Council approved an Aug. 17 public hearing on the proposed Holmes-Foster Park master plan.
Public input began on the plan last year, when the developer, Stromberg, Garrigan and Associates, hosted an open house inviting members of the community to comment on what they would like to see in the park. Further workshops were hosted as a plan was formed that both focused on preserving the trees of the park while adding to the amenities the park provided.
A plan presented in February received less than enthusiastic remarks from the Holmes-Foster residents.
According to comments Monday by developer Sean Garrigan, the best course of action for the master plan now is to focus on the immediate concerns of the park — preventing the loss of trees while valuing the natural aesthetic of the park. This would include elements such as replacing the turf in the least utilized areas with native plants, completing the existing path from Westerly Parkway to South Sparks Street and possibly combining playground areas.
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Resident Robert Eckhardt referred to the plan as “mission creep,” saying the park plan began as a concern over tree loss, but has evolved into something that no one in the neighborhood wants.
“One of the main things people say about the park is they like the trees and natural atmosphere,” he said. “These plans expand the pathways and parking areas. It’s counter to the initial intent and taste of the neighborhood.”
Resident Bill Hartman said his real concern was the plan’s emphasis in moving away from a neighborhood park and making it a regional destination.
“If people come, they’re welcome,” he said. “But to make it into a regional park is the wrong thing to do.”
Councilman Evan Myers, who said he has lived in the Holmes-Foster neighborhood for 40 years, said the park “is a family park, and that’s how it should remain.” He agreed with comments by Councilwoman Theresa Lafer that when it comes to the park, “less is more.”
Myers said after speaking with his fellow residents, he didn’t believe in the plan, and recommended council reject even having a public hearing.
Councilwoman Cathy Dauler said she questioned the wisdom of not holding a hearing, saying it was important to the public record to hear from all those who had opinions, not just the residents present.
“If we say we’re not going to acknowledge the work done, the work is still there,” she said. “Just because someone is against it, we should pack up and go home?”
Borough Manager Tom Fountaine suggested holding a work session meeting following the hearing to rework aspects of the plan should the council vote to accept it.
Council voted 5-1 in favor of the public meeting on Aug. 17. Myers voted against. Councilwoman Sarah Klinetob was absent.