'This is happening unless the citizens stop it': Lindenwood Park neighbors worry RV spaces will replace ballfields
FARGO — It was a blustery afternoon when two neighbors met at Lindenwood Park to look over changes already underway and to talk about more changes they fear are on the horizon.
Fencing for two softball fields has been removed, and word on the street is that the Fargo Park District is considering replacing the fields with an expansion of Lindenwood's existing RV park. Meanwhile, park district officials say nothing has been decided.
The two neighbors, Tom Moore and Jim Flaherty, and their families have lived near Lindenwood for more than 20 years. Their children grew up attending soccer practices and playing with friends in the city's largest multi-use park, and they want the amenities around for other families in the future.
Park District Director Joel Vettel said the district has "internally discussed the possibility of getting rid of fields and expanding RV lots." He said there have been questions from the camping community about expansion due to "limited opportunities for camping in our community."
The Fargo Park Board "wants to do a master plan before we move forward with anything in Lindenwood Park," Vettel said.
Also being discussed is a proposal to build a memorial along Roger Maris Drive South to honor emergency workers from Cass and Clay counties.
Through a public records request, The Forum obtained a proposed design plan that shows the memorial being built where there are currently ballfields. The memorial would include a police tribute wall as well as firefighter and EMS plazas.
Don Martin of F-M Ambulance Service said he approached the Park Board about the proposed memorial, and Martin asked if there would be room to include it in Lindenwood's master plan.
Vettel said the park district isn't sure where the memorial could fit in the master plan. He anticipates public input meetings this fall to kick off master planning conversations. Until then, he said the district won't do anything with Lindenwood.
But Moore and Flaherty are under the impression that the park district is pursuing more RV lots.
"This is happening unless the citizens stop it. It's going to take a groundswell of noise," Moore said.
Lindenwood has 47 campsites, with electric and water hookups, nestled along the Red River. In 2008, a $485,000 visitor center was constructed near the campsites, with restrooms and showers.
Campers are expected to bring in $160,000 in revenue this year, according to budget documents.
Flaherty said the park should cater to local residents, not a more transient population. If public services were about making money, he said fire truck rentals for birthday parties would be through the roof. Furthermore, he said, those staying in RVs and tents pay $30 per night and leave, and they don't spend money in the city like tourists who come for the Fargo Marathon.
"This isn't about generating revenue. This is an asset to the community," Moore said of the park. "It seems tremendously misguided taking resources away from families in the neighborhood paying taxes."
Vettel said the softball field fencing was removed for easier maintenance of the grounds. On top of that, no money has been set aside for projects at Lindenwood, he said.
Vettel said the park district was planning on removing the softball fencing since it was too short for the fields anyway. Plus, the city recently added a softball complex in north Fargo, so he said the two fields at Lindenwood no longer serve a purpose.
Vettel said the park district has no interest in converting the space back to softball fields and master planning conversations will determine the future use of the fields.