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Park or Parking?: As the Lindsay Park Planning Process Gets Underway, Battle Lines Are Already Drawn PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Local News
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 13 May 2009 06:00

Lindsay Park. (Click for a larger version.)

The meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 12, has been described as the beginning of a master-planning process for Lindsay Park, with the potential impact to spill over into the Village of East Davenport. Darrin Nordahl, of the City of Davenport's Design Center, described the process as "very long and involved" and said he envisioned meetings to the end of the year.

But for many opponents of shifting the use of some park land - largely for parking for Village businesses - the process already appears well underway.

"It kind of looked like they were trying to sneak it under the radar," said Pat Stolley, a resident of the area who uses the park regularly.

"What's already been hatched will be unveiled," said Karen Anderson, executive director of the Scott County Historic Preservation Society, "concocted in the back rooms with Village businesspeople. ... What a travesty that the process has been so closed."

Tuesday's meeting came after press time for the River Cities' Reader (the Quad-City Times coverage is here, and the Argus/Dispatch coverage is here), but interviews with city staff, park users and defenders, and business interests revealed that the process will likely be contentious. And parking will dominate the discussion.

A flyer alerting park supporters to Tuesday's meeting claimed that the park's basketball court and ball diamond are at risk. City officials said that's highly unlikely. "That's not even part of the equation," said Seve Ghose, the director of Davenport Parks & Recreation. "We are not going to give those up. They serve a community purpose."

But there is certainly support among some merchants for moving the restroom facility and basketball court for a parking area that could also be used to stage festivals. "It can fit in the area," said John Wisor, the owner of the 11th Street Precinct Bar & Grill, noting that the city could use brick pavers to improve the appearance. "All the businesses down here want it," Wisor said. "Parking is important to business. ... You don't lose anything. You gain."

Wisor said that he collected 40 signatures from Village business owners supporting the concept, although he declined to name them.

One public-relations problem is that Wisor has a clear idea what he wants, such as an 11th Street entrance and approximately 40 parking spots. That gives the impression that before there was any public input, there was already a proposal on the table.

So there's a disconnect between what the city said about Tuesday's meetings and the issues that people are already arguing about.

Nordahl said that "this first meeting is really going to be bringing everyone up to speed" about issues; imminent improvements such as a new bike path; the next steps; and the scope of planning.

But the City of Davenport has done itself no favors in the way it approached this planning process.

Tuesday's meeting was held at the Davenport Parks & Recreation office (on the city's west side) rather than in the Village, and it was held on the same evening that the Davenport Historic Preservation Commission was considering the landmarking of a Village of East Davenport property.

Furthermore, beyond the parking/staging area favored by Wisor, there already seems to be an agenda for the park. The bike path is mostly built, and city staff members are talking about an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restroom facility and clearer signs for existing parking lots. All of that suggests that the planning process is not starting from scratch.


The Parking Problem

Stolley said he was initially alarmed when he found out about the meeting, but on Friday he said, "I'm a lot less freaked out than I was a few days ago."

Still, on the issue of parking, Stolley said he doesn't think there's a need to add to what's already there.

"We have parking," he said. "People just don't know about it and don't use it."

"There's ample parking," Ghose said. "You just have to find it."

The city has three lots near Lindsay Park: near River Drive and Mound Street, adjacent to the convenience store/gas station on 12th Street, and south of River Drive.

"We know it's not signed the best," Nordahl said of free city parking. "We know we can improve signage."

Wisor scoffed at the idea that parking lots several blocks away are the answer for Village businesses. People don't want to walk that distance, he said, and for bar patrons, the lack of convenient lighted parking makes the area dangerous. "You want somebody to get raped?" he asked.

Nordahl said the lot south of River Drive is not appropriate for everyday use, but he said a parking plan for the area might be the next step.

"We've never done a parking plan for the Village," he said. "And everyone's clamoring for a parking plan. What we have heard ... is that the parking lots that we do have tend to be underutilized."

He added that he doesn't believe that the lot envisioned by Wisor will put an end to the issue. "We're not so sure that even if you added a little bit of parking there, we're going to resolve the issue of parking in the Village as a whole," he said.

Nordahl also sounded less than enthusiastic about the prospect of a new lot: "I think people are looking at Lindsay Park as potential open space to expand parking, but honestly I don't think that's a long-term solution. I think what we're going to have to look at in the Village are the existing parking lots that line the alleys, many of which are completely underutilized, but because they are private property, the private-property owners will not allow the general public to park on there."

A 1977 study of the Village of East Davenport claimed that "parking can take place adjacent to the alleys as well as behind and between commercial structures ... . These proposed plans increase the parking potential ... by 265 spaces."

"The Village is the same Village as when the study was done," Anderson said. "There's nothing out-of-date about this."

Another source of tension in the planning process could come from the different constituencies. The businesses of the Village want the park used to enhance their opportunities, while residents want it maintained as a neighborhood amenity. The city, meanwhile, is making some east-Davenport residents feel like their input isn't wanted by calling the park an amenity for the entire community - akin to Vander Veer Botanical Park.

"It's really classified as a community park and a special-use park, because it is so large, because of its historical significance, and because it does cater to a variety of programs and uses not only for the citizens of Davenport but for visitors as well," Nordahl said. He added that the city plans to hold Lindsay Park meetings not only in the Village but also downtown and on the city's north and west sides. And he said the city is seeking a diverse group for the park steering committee, which would likely meet monthly through the end of the year.

While Nordahl sounds like he's with Stolley and Anderson on the parking issue, viewing the park as a community amenity suggests that he might favor a parking lot that could also be used to increase the number of festivals held at the park. The Davenport City Council, of course, would have final say on any changes to the park, and the Davenport Historic Preservation Commission has design review.

Anderson is adamant, however, that no park land should be eliminated for parking. "There's nothing that justifies taking out park land," she said.

And Stolley said, "I think the park's pretty cool the way it is. ... There's no need to really spend a lot of money."

But Wisor said he's baffled by the uproar over a multi-purpose lot that would only displace existing amenities: "I don't understand the big deal."

Comments (5)Add Comment
written by jeffrey a porter, May 14, 2009
I would have liked you to include the statements made at the meeting by the one village business owner that had the guts to speak openly, which would be my own. I repeat what i said at the meeting, there is no parking issue in the village. The ameneties should be enjoyed by all, even the basketball players. That John Wisor's personal parking lot has even been entertained shows the lack of unity and communication in the village among the business owners. Improvements should be made no doubt; responsibility to all those that use the park should be our first concern.

Jeffrey Porter
Five Star Salon Spa
written by Rick Martin, May 15, 2009
Mr. Porter, the article states "Tuesday's meeting came after press time for the River Cities' Reader (the Quad-City Times coverage is here, and the Argus/Dispatch coverage is here)" which tells me that the article was written BEFORE the meeting. Mr. Ignatius couldn't have included something said at the meeting if it occurred after he wrote it.
Also, we've been to many events in the Village and we don't mind walking a block or two (or more). In fact, that's what many people do in the Village, they walk.
Mr. Wisor's comment: "You want somebody to get raped?" is totally out of line. If more parking is going to increase safety, then what is going on now? Women beware, there's danger in the Village according to Mr. Wisor.
Former East Villiage/Davenport resident.
written by Bob Yapp, May 17, 2009
Parking in the East Villiage has and never will be a real issue. Even when there's a festival, I've never had to park and walk more than a block or two. Better signage for existing parking and understanding that the Villiage is not one of those badly planned, awful sprawl malls on the north side of the city. The East Villiage doesn't belong to a few bully property owners. This historic treasure, which includes Lindsay Park, belongs to all the citizens of Davenport.

From a planning standpoint the East Villiage is and always has been a walkable community of businesses and homes. Paving part of the wildly historic Lindsay Park will not magically bring more people to the businesses in the Villiage. It will however bring another hard surface parking lot that would contribute to more excessive run-off and the resulting addition to flooding these hard surface lots bring with them.

The tax payers dollars and marketing dollars from the businesses would be better spent educating people to get out of their cars and walk a block or two to patronize the fine East Villiage businesses.

Bob Yapp
Hannibal, Missouri
Former East Villiage/Davenport Resident.
Better usage planning
written by Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, May 21, 2009
I worked in the village and can attest that there are many unknown and "pirate" parking spaces available. The Christie Mansion and the schoolhouse/mall parking lot come to mind.
What is needed is better signage and a bit more co-operation between property owners/businesses. And I like the notion of handicapped paver oasises, small parking areas that are available to genuinely restricted persons, but are otherwise attractive to pedestrian traffic.

Thumbs up to Jeff Ignatius & staff for another well-prepared and well-balanced story.
written by Tyler Langan, June 04, 2009
The idea to demolish the basketball and restroom facilities for more parking is absolutely ridiculous. Trying to put an end to recreational activities for the youth in order to apply more parking for a bar is insane and should definitely be looked over by the city before they listen to that whack-job Wisor.

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