Council Clears Two Fields

Council Clears Two Fields

City Council votes for 'Scheme A' at Jones Point Park.

Scheme A won, for now. But the battle over Jones Point Park is not over yet.

The City Council voted Tuesday night to recommend a plan for Jones Point that included two fields north of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Ultimately, the National Park Service will determine which plan is used — and residents who oppose the plan say that they have just begun to fight.

Vice Mayor Del Pepper voted against the recommendation and Councilman Andrew Macdonald abstained. The rest of the council supported the plan that would remove a thicket of trees and underbrush that shield nearby houses from the bridge.

"It's not easy to balance all of the interests involved," said Councilman Rob Krupicka, who introduced the motion to recommend clear-cutting two acres north of the bridge to create two athletic fields. He called the area south of the bridge "an amazing passive space."

"We need more passive space in this community," he said.

Another factor influencing Krupicka's vote was the need for athletic fields. During a Monday public hearing, many speakers expressed a desire for areas where children could be involved in sports activities.

"A successful city has to be good to its kids," he said. "We have to make decisions that will benefit the youth in our community."

Krupicka's motion carried several stipulations that asked city staff to provide buffers to reduce sound pollution in the area, create a master plan for the parks and seek mitigation for lost land.

Councilman Ludwig Gaines seconded Krupicka's motion, saying that the 2001 plan for Jones Point had already established the need to build athletic fields north of the bridge. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, the federal government made changes to safety regulations that prevented parking under the Wilson Bridge — throwing the entire plan into disarray.

"Parking is the real issue here, not the fields," he said. "Two fields have always been contemplated north of the bridge."

Gaines agreed with those who said that the city needed more athletic fields.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to add to our public inventory," he said, adding that the public debate had become overpersonalized. "I profess some disappointment in the process and the loss of civility."

OUTSIDE THE CHAMBER, members of the Old Town Civic Association and the Yates Gardens Civic Association expressed dismay at the council's vote.

Richard Campbell, president of the Yates Gardens Civic Association, said that the "spineless City Council" members "caved to the sports lobby to accomplish a short-term goal."

"We will take this to the federal government," he said. "We tried to reach a compromise with the city, and they did not want to compromise."

Teresa Miller, who was a member of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Task Force, also opposed the council's vote.

"The 1998 settlement agreement specifically states that money from the federal government should be used provide relief to the citizens who live closest to the bridge," she said. "By voting a request two fields north of the bridge, the City Council is essentially taking the pot of money that's supposed to be used to help local residents and instead creating more problems for us."

For Campbell, Miller and others who oppose the plan recommended to the Park Service by the City Council, the fight has just begun.

"Let's rock and roll," Campbell said.