Group forms to block city proposal to cut hundreds of trees in Northeast Park
When neighbors in Northeast Gainesville learned in December that the City of Gainesville had proposed cutting down more than one hundred trees in Northeast Park in order to put in a large stormwater retention pond, they came together with a common goal. Within weeks, the neighbors had organized and formed Friends of Northeast Park (FNEP), an association created to protect the park.
The city's proposal had begun with its engineers, who had long eyed periodic problems with rainwater accumulation in the park. The city's Parks and Recreation group had been working on a plan for the construction of a skateboard facility in the park, which would have contributed to stormwater problems. Then, a local developer proposed building the Capstone development project, located to the south and west of the park. The city's engineers suggested addressing the stormwater needs of all these projects by constructing a large retention pond, with permanent non-running water, and with embankments and chain link fencing. Unfortunately, the site they chose was in the park itself, consuming a substantial amount of land in the park, and requiring the removal of more than one hundred trees from the park.
This plan seemed unwise to hundreds of park neighbors and users who have let their concerns be known to local officials. In response, the City Commission has authorized Public Works Department and Recreation & Parks Department to staff a Task Force from Northeast area applicants along with specialists from several Boards to investigate these issues and to report back to the City Commission.
During recent months, the members of FNEP have convened to organize their research and to increase their understanding of the NE Park issues. Their vision is to grow as an organized voice to preserve and to protect the integrity of the park. An elected Board of Directors, chaired by longtime park supporter Monica Leadon Cooper and served by several neighbors, including Marc Frank, has met weekly as have special committees. The hydrology committee has reported to the general membership complex data on the stormwater drainage patterns relevant to the park issues. The FNEP continues to focus on the upcoming City Commission meeting with the Task Force.
On Sunday, March 11, FNEP staged a free outdoor concert among the trees of Northeast Park on the site of the proposed stormwater facility. Among the musicians were the self-styled Northeast Park Preservation Band, which featured musicians Monica Leadon Cooper, Barry Sides, Janet Rucker, Jack Nettles, Mark Leadon and Ron Thomas. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of the issues surrounding Northeast Park. Those attending the gathering had an opportunity to voice their opinions in a written questionnaire as well as to discuss their ideas with their neighbors.
A brief history of the park and related articles and maps of the proposed facilities are available. For information, contact Monica Leadon Cooper at 373-5295.
The trees pictured here are all slated to be cut due to development, residents say.
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