Although most of their fears about acres of concrete and plans to tear out a ball field and basketball court in Lindsay Park were put to rest, around 100 neighbors who live near the Village of East Davenport made it clear they aren’t keen on any drastic changes to the historic spot.
At least two dozen from the crowd spoke at a community input meeting held at the Davenport Parks and Recreation offices Tuesday night, all of them against any conversion of grass to asphalt for parking or anything else that might significantly alter the simple landscape of open space, playing fields, benches and grass.
Much of the passion surrounded rumors that members of the Village of East Davenport business association had already drawn up plans showing the removal of basketball courts and the creation of a 40-plus spot paved lot in its place. Seve Ghose, the parks director, again reiterated his reluctance to give up greenspace for parking, his commitment to keeping the softball diamond and replacing the old, non ADA-compliant bathrooms with modernized restrooms.
To drive their point home, however, speaker after speaker vowed opposition to any paving plans in the park.
“If the commercial interests have a parking problem, that is their problem and they can solve it themselves,” said Ferrel Anderson, who lives on nearby 13th Street.
Fritz Miller, a member of the Davenport Historic Preservation Commission — which adamantly opposes a parking lot due to Lindsay’s history as the largest mustering spot for Iowa soldiers in the Civil War — tried to allay some of the fears.
He and other commission members attended a meeting with Village business owners when issues like the proposed parking lot were discussed. However, he said, by the end of the meeting, there was general agreement on finding alternative solutions — including a city staff supported plan to construct a walkway between the existing public parking lot at Mound Street and River Drive to connect it to 11th Street. The plan also calls for improving signage, letting the public know the parking there and at another city lot at Jersey Ridge and 12th Street is free and available.
“By the end, there was no talk of ripping up the court or taking out the ball field, but looking at working together and making some improvements,” Miller said. “We can dot his. It’s not that hard. All we have to do is get together.”
Dale Haake, who lives on Fernwood Drive, said he believes improvements can be made to the park that help everyone — residents, business owners and visitors.
“I do think it’s important to keep a spirit of cooperation with the business owners and not to demonize them,” he said.
Darrin Nordahl, of the city’s design center, said any final decisions will be based on recommendations from a Lindsay Park Steering Committee. At the end of the meeting, Ghose was taking down names of people interested in being on the committee.
The initial ideas the city is starting with were first compiled in a 1998 master plan for Lindsay Park. They include:
* Locating old photos and historical documents to help guide the historic redevelopment of the park
* Making the park compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act
* Adding a promenade at the crest of the hill in the upper park for river viewing
* Adding a shelter that could host events
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* Creating more internal walking paths within the park
* Improving the connectivity between the upper park north of River Drive and the lower park south of River Drive, perhaps with a bridge crossing the railroad tracks.
* Keeping the ball field, which has been in use since before the turn of the 19th century
The reason the park master plan was dusted off and looked at now is to build on the momentum of projects going in now that complement it, Nordahl said. Those include the completion of a recreation trail connecting the Duck Creek and Riverfront trails, improving signage in the Village and in the nearby parking lots, and interior sidewalk connections between the parking lot at Mound Street and River Drive to 11th Street.
Ghose said he hopes to have the steering committee selected by the end of the month and to hold another community input meeting around the same time.
Karen Anderson, the executive director of the Scott County Historic Preservation Society and former event coordinator for the Village of East Davenport, urged the city leaders to keep the park plans simple. She noted that since the time of the American Indians and early European explorers and Davenport’s founding as a community, the area has been mostly greenspace.
“It’s your sacred duty as aldermen and park directors to protect it,” she said.