Sometimes even the best of intentions can turn into controversy, and in a quiet neighborhood park in Meadowlawn that's just what has happened. The irony here is the opposing sides seem to agree with each other. They just haven't realized it yet.
On one side is the neighborhood association board. On the other side are some disgruntled neighbors, some of whom are association members.
The point of contention is Meadowlawn Park, 2.7 acres of gently rolling grassland that hugs Viking Lake on 73rd Avenue N off 14th Street.
Members of the two-year-old Meadowlawn Neighborhood Association expressed an interest in improving the park after sharing ideas at a Meet and Greet picnic last year. Many of those attending signed a petition requesting improvements.
What should go into the park and who ultimately should decide are the spicy issues now fragmenting the association and threatening longtime friendships.
Should it be an active park with permanent picnic shelters, tables and barbecue pits? Or should it remain a passive park with improved playground equipment, benches and a perimeter sidewalk?
The park currently has a sprinkling of playground equipment and open spaces. It's frequently used for Little League practices and kite-flying by a neighborhood club.
City Council member Beatrice Griswold, who lives on Viking Lake and overlooks the park, is hearing from both sides.
After the '94 Meet and Greet, association president Jack Pisecco said he sent the petition and a cover letter to Griswold asking for direction. Griswold forwarded the letter to the city's planning department, which prepared a proposal of what Meadowlawn Park could accommodate.
In April, Meadowlawn association members and residents surrounding the park met to discuss a presentation of the proposed park development, Pisecco said. "It wasn't the board's proposal and it wasn't a done deal."
That wasn't the impression some got, though, including longtime Meadowlawn resident John Newcomer, whose property abuts the park.
Newcomer favors a passive park while the proposal displayed an active one. Newcomer pointed out they already have an active park, Fossil Park, a few blocks away. He's also concerned that an active park will be an invitation to vandals.
Council member Griswold said, "I'm completely neutral although some thought I was for (the active) improvements."
At the meeting Pisecco selected a working group led by Newcomer to hear concerns and suggestions of all residents. Newcomer and Pisecco differ on what caused the group's demise.
However, a survey has been prepared as a result of an unchaired second committee. Pisecco wants to send it and a copy of the planning department's proposal to all residents within Meadowlawn neighborhood boundaries. He thinks it's only fair to allow everyone the opportunity to see the same information before making a decision.
Although Newcomer thinks the residents surrounding the park should have more voice than those living several blocks away, he does agree with the survey. But he doesn't want the planning department's park proposal included.
Neighborhood director Mike Dove has been called upon to help find some unity in the diversity.
Dove said the city likes to work with an association, but they will listen to all residents' concerns. He will suggest seeking money for improvements on which both groups agree. There is no timetable for the improvements.
After talking with Pisecco and Newcomer, it seemed the association and Newcomer were both requesting the same passive improvements. Those include trash bins, benches, improved playground equipment and sidewalks. Neither indicated they wanted cabanas, picnic tables or grills.
Do both sides realize this?
"If that's the way Pisecco feels, tell him to call me and we'll sit down and get this thing settled," John Newcomer said.
Happy holiday, neighbors!