Email to Council Member O’Connell

The email below was sent by the Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition’s E. S. Rose Park Committee to Council Member O’Connell prior to a small meeting convened by Council Member Sledge on July 31, 2018.

Council Member O’Connell had written on July 24 that he was committed to supporting “the elimination of the second story” of the building.

With reference to the July 31 meeting, Council Member Sledge had written on July 25, “I think everyone knows the 2nd floor situation is the subject/sticking point, with Freddie running point on that aspect.”

July 31, 2018

Dear Freddie,

Our Rose Park group met last night to prepare for the meeting this evening and to discuss potential changes to the amendment.

Our fundamentals align with what you have identified as crucial: moving the facility, equitable sharing of the facility, and removing the proposed second floor with lock-and-key offices and meeting spaces. We believe that securing agreement on those points is essential for any proposal to be presented at a community meeting.

We strongly feel that the proposal should also include other community benefits and provisions for the longer-term restoration of the park. A major concern about the proposed building is that it anchors Belmont in the park even more permanently and further precludes a community vision for the park that predates the original lease agreement and has survived in spite of it.

The batting facility proposal has shown that the community’s objections to the original lease — contrary to assurances by Bob Fisher comparing it to the “good example” of Shelby Park “where those fields are run by the Old Timers Association” — were well founded and even understated. The revised lease amendment must include conditions preventing further expansion of the university’s facilities in E.S. Rose Park with a clear and detailed strategy for future park development focused on the needs of the rapidly growing Edgehill community. As an ONE leader put it in 2007:

“Belmont argues that they are also developing it for Edgehill residents. There are hundreds of people who live there who signed a document saying they don’t want it and they don’t need it. Rather they want a regular, old-fashioned park to enjoy with their families, and they would look forward to working with the Parks Board to design it.”

A community meeting — promised by Colby last year and again at the recent Parks Board meeting — is clearly needed to develop specifics, but some of our ideas include:

(1) Reduce the lease period to something more reasonable. Ginger Hausser joked years ago that the lease would exceed the lifespan of everyone discussing it. This wasn’t far from the truth and doesn’t have to be the case with the building.

(2) Require the annual “grant” for Easley Community Center for the duration of the lease agreement and just including it as a lease payment. The funds could be used for Saturday programming until we have a regional center or Metro finds funds to open on Saturdays, and then the grant can be used for programming (youth development) through the end of the lease agreement.

(3) Guarantee neighborhood kids have access to batting cage for recreation. Require that Parks (through Easley) staff the batting cage four hours/week so that kids can just show up and hit balls; otherwise, the batting cage will be inaccessible as there are no Edgehill baseball teams. Access needs to be intentional.

(4) Ensure walkway connectivity between Rose Park Middle School and Easley Community Center for the schoolchildren who use the park and community center on a daily basis.

(5) Minimize impact on basketball courts during construction, and basketball courts must be rebuilt to the same number of courts and size in full (as opposed to a “portion” as the most recent amendment stipulates) and of better quality.

(6) Provide an open level playing field (at least 80′ x 180′) for neighborhood kids, as all level terrain suitable for outdoor games and activities is currently occupied by Belmont athletic fields. The building construction, if this has to happen, would be an appropriate time to develop this green space.

As you know, a recent Tennessean article about the William Edmonson site quoted a 14-year old saying, “There’s another park but it’s messed up.” There was a time when you would see several little league football teams in Rose Park simultaneously practicing on the grassy fields. You might also see several youth who decided to strike up their own game of soccer, kickball, etc. (no coaching required). In either case, there would also be several adults sitting in their lawn chairs or on the bleachers watching the youth. At least one area of level terrain that can be used by youth ages 5-17 is not asking too much for a 23+ acre public park. This doesn’t need to be anything complicated or formal. Just a “canvas” of appropriate green space can ignite all types of creativity in energetic youth — from frisbee to dance to soccer to kickball, football, volleyball, badminton, field day activities, etc.

(7) Create places to sit besides the stadium stands — around open green space and also surrounding the basketball courts.

Although we can’t predict the outcome of a community meeting, we think that the list of conditions above reflect the kind of respect for Rose Park and the Edgehill community — past, present, and future — that has been lacking to date and would help to put us on the right path. Thank you again very much for your support, and we look forward to talking more this evening.