Witherbee Neighborhood Association

Our Boundaries: 33 Street (West) to 56th Street (East); O Street (North) to Randolph Street (South)

last update 2/24/05

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A Neighbors View

The question of whether a private club can permanently convert general-use public park land to a restricted, limited, special-use facility that it controls will be addressed by the City Council at its February 28th meeting. The controversy over the right of the Lincoln Tennis Association to construct three additional competition-level tennis courts on the southeast corner of Woods Park arose during public Advisory Committee meetings to develop a new 10 year Master Plan for the park last fall.

Residents of Witherbee and Woods Park neighborhoods, which surround the park on three sides, were led to believe that the proposed courts, the result of meetings between the Tennis Association, tennis affectionadoes, and the City Council back in the early 1990's, were not to be included in the new Master Plan. However at the last meeting of the group, the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department unveiled a plan that put the courts back on the map. This plan was strongly rejected by 80% of the people present, however, the Parks and Recreation Department refused to take the courts off again and instructed those who disagreed with the plan to take the matter up with the City Council. Neighbors noted that Parks and Recreation had no trouble removing the other uncompleted elements of the 1992 master plan from the new plan.

The Lincoln Tennis Association, which manages the Woods Park tennis complex for the Parks and Recreation Department, wants to build three additional courts in order to attract state-wide and regional tournament play to Lincoln. According to their records, the existing 15 competition-level courts at Woods Park are used less than 50% of the time but it is inconvenient for tournament participants to play at other competition-level courts around the city or to have to wait for a court to become available at Woods Park.

Witherbee and Woods Park neighborhood associations cite the violation of the City Comprehensive Plan (Woods Park is designed to support the leisure and recreation needs of people within a two mile radius); the additional noise, garbage, and light pollution arising from holding large tournaments in the middle of a residential neighborhood; increased traffic and parking problems at and around the park; and the loss of public green space -- land that is already used for many other recreational activities -- to private interests as valid reasons for preventing any further development of the south side of the Park. The decreased interest in tennis throughout the community is also a factor.

Some proposed features of the 10 Year Master Plan that met with general approval are two picnic shelters, a multipurpose court/playground area, relocation of the sand volleyball court, irrigation of playing fields, and additional landscaping.

Woods Park has been an element of controversy for a number of years. Mayor Don Wesley penned a ten year agreement with Nebraska Wesleyan University about five years ago to convert a heavily-used softball diamond in the southwest corner of the Park into a restricted-use college-level Division Two baseball field. Renovation and yearly maintenance has cost the City far more than was anticipated. The Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department is constructing a three story addition to its facility in the former rose garden area on the northwest corner of the park, removing over an acre of park land, after it refused to negotiate a deal with the land owner of commercial property to the west and neighborhood residents objected strongly to a plan by the city to condemn private residential property and close N Street into the park. The refusal of the city and the Tennis Association to live up to their agreement with area residents to deflate and remove the tennis bubbles on the east side of the park each summer continues to cause hard feelings. Meanwhile, neighbors had to write grants to get benches installed along walkways in the Park for handicapped residents to use because the Parks and Recreation department refused to provide such amenities.

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