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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This summer and fall, 4 meetings were held with neighbors on the new Master Plan for Woods Park. Lincoln Parks & Rec. Department conducted these meetings. While they never asked for a vote on the plan it is estimated that nearly everyone from the neighborhood (over 80% of those in attendance) strongly objected to keeping the 3 proposed tennis courts in the new Plan. In early November in preparing for a Woods Park Neighborhood Assn. meeting on the new Master Plan, 550 leaflets were distributed to neighbors on the east, south and west of Woods Park. During this distribution a number of neighbors were asked what they felt about the additional tennis courts for Woods Park. 95% were very much against the idea. Only one neighbor was in favor of the courts - their son, now grown, had used the tennis facilities at Woods quite a bit. When asked how he felt about the Wesleyan Baseball Field situation, he indicated he was adamantly against that! Through the years neighbors have overwhelmingly opposed the development of additional athletic facilities in Woods Park.

Because the Parks & Recreation Department has recommended the new Master Plan go forward with the 3 proposed courts included, this background information package has been developed. It covers the following topics:

click on links below 1-6

  1. The case for the "need" (or lack thereof) for additional tennis courts at Woods Park.
  2. Background on the nature and limits on Community Parks imposed by the Lincoln- Lancaster Comprehensive Plan.
  3. The layout of Woods Park's facilities and the negative results if the proposed courts are
  4. The character of the immediate neighborhood surrounding Woods Park.
  5. The history and manner of the development of the Athletic Facilities in Woods Park.
  6. Our proposal for the use of this open space in the south part of the park.


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1. The Need (or Lack of Need) for Tennis in Lincoln

J.J. Yost (Mgr. of Planning & Construction, Parks & Rec. Department) stated with Lynn Johnson (Director of Parks & Rec. Department) present during the 4 planning meetings held this past summer and also in a WPNA meeting (Woods Park Neighborhood Association) held about 2 years ago, that the demand for public tennis has decreased since the 1990's when the last Woods Park Master Plan was developed. This is a trend over the past 13 years.

Further proof of this is visible to neighbors who see the park all the time. They report that the 3 most recently built courts (located just west of the tennis bubbles) go unused a vast majority of the outdoor tennis season.

Tennis Assn. figures show that current summer court usage is at 46% of capacity.

The only "need" for more courts is in order to host tournaments - IN ONE LOCATION! With other premium surface courts available at some of the local high schools and also at UNL, we feel that it would be entirely possible to hold these tournaments in several locations throughout the city, just as is done for basketball tournaments. This option should be explored and pursued. Since the Lincoln Public Schools and UNL are currently using facilities in Woods Park for practices and competitions, they should show a willingness to cooperate and make their courts available for this tournament "need".

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2. Woods Park is only a Community Park.

Community Parks (as defined by the Lincoln-Lancaster Comprehensive Plan, updated 2002, and passed by the City Council) are medium size parks from 30-50 acres. They are to serve around 1,000 residents for each 1 ½ acres of parkland - approximately a 2 mile radius in the urban area.

Woods Park is now about 46 acres, after the recent sale of some land to the Health Department.

Lincoln's population is about 225,000.

According to the definition of a Community Park, Woods is therefore intended to serve about 30,700 residents - or about 14% of Lincoln's population.

The Comprehensive Plan defines Regional Parks (Pioneers, Mahoney, etc.) as being Lincoln's larger parks, they are to serve residents throughout the city as well as people outside of Lincoln.

Community Parks are only to serve a certain number of Lincoln's residents - about the number that would live within a 2 mile radius of the park! They are not intended to serve people outside the city limits of Lincoln.


Judging by the number of tennis facilities in the Community Parks of Lincoln, you can tell how much each park is serving the needs in Lincoln for this sport. The Community Parks which contain tennis courts: Ballard, Belmont, Cooper, Dinsmore, Henry, Peter Pan, Peterson, Tierra, Tyrrell, Uni Place and UPCO each have 2 tennis courts with concrete pads. Roberts has 2 "Laykold" surface courts that are quite pitted. Irvingdale has 3 concrete tennis courts. Woods contains 15 tennis courts and the total, if the proposed courts are built, would bring that to 18!

The Tennis Assn. is not interested in the concrete pad courts because competitive tennis players don't want to play on them. They want the premium "Laykold" surface. Although Roberts Park has 2 courts with this surface, they are in poor condition and not suited for competitive tournament play.

Therefore Woods contains 100% of the usable "Laykold" courts in the city.

Parks & Rec. is trying to serve 38% of the entire need for tennis in Lincoln's community Parks - at Woods Park alone -- or worse yet -- 100% of the need for competition tennis! Furthermore, Tennis Assn. figures show that for the summer outdoor tournaments held at Woods Park nearly 24% of the participants are not even Lincoln Residents. 725 participants: 554 from Lincoln, 171 from outside Lincoln or outside Nebraska. It seems obvious that all of this far exceeds the limits the Comprehensive Plan has outlined for Community Parks.


Lincoln's Community Parks in acres: 1 to 144
Woods at 46 acres is the 5th largest
Lincoln's Regional Parks in acres: 77 to 728
Woods at 46 acres is about ½ the size of Mahoney at 77 acres

Mahoney Park is Lincoln's smallest Regional Park (77 acres) and is intended to serve all the resident of Lincoln. It contains a golf course and 4 ball fields clustered together. The ball fields are blocks from any residential neighbors. They are buffered by the distance this larger park contains as well as the golf course. The golf course is the type of athletic facility that is similar to what most people imagine when they think of the nature of a park: nature, natural beauty, open space, a relief from urbanization, peace & quiet.

Woods Park on the other hand is a Community Park at 46 acres. All of its athletic facilities are just across the street from residential neighbors and highly visible. This is so because all these facilities are crowded into the southern 35% of the park (this will be discussed later) and its overall size doesn't leave enough room to buffer these facilities.

There are many people who buy or build expensive houses next to golf courses, because of the attributes described earlier, in addition to the love of the sport. On the other hand, few if any, people invest large sums of money in order to live next to a tennis complex (even tennis lovers). If they are well off and love tennis, they usually construct a tennis court on their own property.

It would be poor planning (similar to poor city zoning) to have a single, medium sized Community Park treated like a larger Regional Park in order to satisfy too much of a city's need for a sport like tennis. In many respects the limits placed on Community Parks and other parks are due to their size. One community-size park can contain only so much and continue to retain the character of a park - as well as be able to buffer the park's facilities from the neighbors across the street.

Keep in mind that in the early 1990's the Tennis Assn. requested that the number of courts in Woods Park be doubled from 12 to 24. They wanted to host regional tournaments for a number of surrounding states. If they want something they will ask! (Even if it exceeds the limits of a Community Park.) And, of course, a demand for more of Woods Park space may come from the Health Department when Lincoln becomes larger in the future. WHEN WILL THIS STOP???

What about 20 to 40 years in the future?
Assume the proposed courts are built and later a need is declared again because by then:
A. Lincoln will be larger - the communities need for tennis will also be larger.
B. There will be more High Schools and LPS will have more teams it wants to have compete
with each other.

Will Parks & Rec. and the City Council feel even more courts must be added TO WOODS PARK?!!! (Since it will be cheaper to add them here?)

Lincoln's growth will take place at the edge of the city, with most of it south and east. Do the people who want all the tennis concentrated in Woods Park intend to have everyone drive from these distant points to the middle of town for their tennis? Is that good planning?

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3. The way Woods Park is laid out effects the way the park can be used as well as its environmental impact on the immediate residential neighborhood.

All the Athletic Facilities and the huge parking lots that serve them are all located in the southern 35% of the park - right in the heart of an Historic residential neighborhood. These facilities are so extensive and dense that they actually aren't a "park" at all. They are only a Sports Complex.

In Nov. 2004, Lynn Johnson stated to the WPNA meeting that if the park were being planned today it wouldn't be laid out in this fashion (so it is not the best design).

Not only are these athletic facilities extensive, they are tall and imposing and easily seen at a great distance (the baseball backstop, the diving platform, the night lights, the tennis bubbles).
As a result of the concentration of the athletic facilities in the park's southern edge, there is an extremely small amount of open/green space. The view to the immediate neighbors is nothing but athletic facilities and parking lots which go nearly to the sidewalks - for almost 6 city blocks (4 blocks on the south and 2 blocks on the southeast).

The proposed 3 courts would remove 45% of the entire open/green space in the south part of the park next to the residential neighborhood.

As for the open space in front of the bathhouse, the courts would remove 65% of it and as a result, the front of the bathhouse would be obscured, so children who want to swim would have to walk between tennis courts to get to the bathhouse. They would no longer be able to wait at the bathhouse for their parents after swimming, because they would not be able to see the approach of their parents car through the tennis courts.

In addition to the removal of open/green space in the south there are other consequences.
A. The proposed courts would be even closer to the homes, since they would be 8 feet farther south than the fence at the edge of the swimming pool. This would bring their lights, activity and noise nearer to these homes. And, of course, more courts, means more traffic and parking in front of these houses which already endure a lot from swimming, and tennis competitions. This also would bring more trash into the neighborhood.

B. Smaller green space left after constructing these proposed courts would seriously limit the ability of Parks & Rec. to buffer the houses from these facilities since they would now have much less space with which to work. Why continue working and developing a park plan already recognized as flawed?

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4. The Character of the Immediate Neighborhood

Woods Park is bordered immediately on the south by the Woods Park Historic Bungalow District. On the west, the park is next to the East Lincoln/Elm Park Historic District. These designations were created in 1991 to preserve the character of the neighborhood that was built in the 1920's.

There are guidelines and regulations in place to limit alterations in the appearance of the neighborhood and its houses and property.

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5. The Development of Woods Park over the years

When a park's design and character is established before the surrounding neighborhood is built it is one thing. But for a park to be built 40 years after the character of the neighborhood is well in place is quite another.

The situation with Woods Park is even a little different. It's development was gradual and began with the construction of its first facility - the swimming pool in 1965. Then 6 tennis courts and the baseball field were added. Then came some more tennis courts. In 1985 the first tennis bubble was built, the clubhouse in 1986 and in 1992 the 2nd bubble was added. By now there were 12 tennis courts in place. But the Tennis Assn. now wanted 24 courts.

By 1992 the transformation of Woods Park had taken place. Before 1985 it was merely a Community Park with athletic facilities more developed than the other Community Parks in Lincoln. It contained a baseball field, a swimming pool for the neighborhood's use as well as competitions from around the state and outside the state and about 9 tennis courts.

By 1992 the number of tennis courts had grown to 15 and there were 2 tennis bubbles. The southern section of Woods Park had grown into a Sports Complex. In 2003 Kiwanis Field was upgraded and leased to Nebraska Wesleyan for their use. In 2005 the Parks and Rec. Dept has approved retaining the additional three tennis courts (for a grand total of 18) in the new Master Plan for Woods Park.

It is rather ironic that surrounding Woods Park, property owners (who are living in Historic Districts created in 1991) are strongly encouraged by the city to preserve the appearance and character of their original neighborhood. And across the street in their park, the city allows an Athletic Complex to gradually be built to such an extent that now the Parks & Recreation Department is recommending removing the only open/green space ----in order to build even more tennis courts! This is contradictory!

Forty years ago nobody ever asked the surrounding neighborhood if they wanted a Sports Complex in their midst. If the question were ever asked, we believe the answer would have been a resounding NO! Today the answer would be the same.Back to TOP

6. Proposal by Woods Park Neighbors

For this small amount of open/green space in the south of Woods Park, we propose that it be beautified as has been done with a number of mini parks in the city. Picnic tables and seating could also be added. Then the immediate neighbors would have some relief from the dense & imposing athletic facilities that are already in place. This "mini-park" would also act as a buffer to these existing athletic facilities.

What will happen when the city is larger and there is need and a request for additional tennis courts? When will this stop? Only when it is obvious to everyone in the city? Only when there is no more space left in Woods Park? Let's stop this unrestrained development now!


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