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In Your Opinion: Grandparents Pocket Park Doesn’t Pass The Sniff Test

By Skip Schaeffer, Somerset.

Regarding the virtual town meeting on January 12 on an idea for a Grandparents Pocket Park on Willow Avenue, the Franklin Reporter & Advocate article describing the meeting, and the two different opinions listed on the FR&A website:

  • I did not attend the meeting.
  • I previously lived in that Quail Brook community for 12 years.

Addressing Mr. Bill Connell’s letter, I can’t tell right away if he is in favor of the park or not.  Although he describes the meeting as “awesome,” “respectful,” and “good work,” he mostly dismisses the comments of residents as NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) related.

“None of the speakers really cared about the technical details, they just didn’t want the park built and were hurling whatever would stick.  This made it difficult to sort out what were the real flaws in the park plan.”  Respectful?

The title of Mr. Connell’s letter is “FR&A’s Stance On Grandparents Park Is Wrong.”  Two plus two equals five is wrong.  The FR&A’s differing opinion is just that – a differing opinion.  Respectful?  I guess if Mr. Connell thinks the FR&A’s stance against the park is wrong, then he must be in favor of the park.  Although I didn’t see any comments from him advocating for or justifying the park???

Looking at the physical park plan itself, it certainly appears to have some potential value.  But part of the “plan” is also the location.  The physical park technical design might not be flawed but a lot of people think the location is.  A square peg in a round hole is not value.  Instead of dismissing NIMBY comments, why not find true WIMBY (Want In My Back Yard) residents somewhere else in town?

Mr. Connell states, “Covid aside, Open Space has meetings every month and he (FR&A Editor) has never said a word at a meeting, but now he’s (FR&A Editor) a genius?”  Respectful?  I looked at the last 18 months of Open Space meetings on the township website.  Ten were canceled.  Of the eight that were held, only one had the Grandparents Park on its agenda.  Several other Open Space topics were on multiple monthly agendas, but the Grandparents Park was only on the Sept. 2019 agenda.  So apparently this idea was not in great demand by township residents.  Plus, it was presented to the public 15 months later?  And by the way – while channel surfing I’ve come across Open Space meetings in session.  There is NEVER any audio.  That goes for a few other town committee meetings as well.

It appears from the FR&A meeting report that almost every resident speaker was not in favor of the park at the proposed location.  1,500 petition signatures?  Safety of the nearby Willow-New Brunswick Road intersection?  (I can vouch for that having lived there and that was 20+ years ago.)  Other existing parks nearby that might be retrofitted?  Further encroaching on animal habitat?  If the closest positive referral for this kind of park is from AARP in Wichita, Kansas, what does that tell you?  Although this park idea may have been conceived with good intentions, it sounds like a solution looking for a non-existent problem to solve.

Township Councilman Will Galtieri cited a 2012 recreation survey suggesting this location but for a much larger park.  Show us that survey, please.  If there ever was such demand in that area, it apparently isn’t there now so what happened to it?  How outdated is that 2012 survey?  There are only 6-7 parking spaces in the park design so one would think it is assumed that most users would be within walking distance.  What are the Quail Brook demographics now?  It wasn’t grandparents babysitting grandchildren when I lived there.  And what is it with this Council and benches?  You’d think spending $30k a few years ago on half a dozen benches on DeMott Lane that only the squirrels use to rest on would somehow be a lesson learned.

Some Council members claim to have heard the public’s message “loud and clear.”  “Certainly, this is something we have to consider and take it to heart.”  “I want people to know that their comments and participation did not fall on deaf ears tonight.”  “These comments are important to us, we are going to consider them.”  “We are going to consider their opinions and ideas in making the final decision.”  “I think it’s a real question that if existing parks are not being utilized, whether we need to build another park.”  The park is “not a done deal.  We really value your comments.”  “Of course, the need is also important.”  “Sometimes what the Council thinks is a good idea doesn’t necessarily reflect the true public opinion.  We do have to think long and hard on if our ideas are good ideas, of if we have to find other ways to better help the residents.”  I guess we’ll find out next month when they vote if Council members “heard” the comments in this meeting or if they really “listened.”  Past history is certainly mixed.

Finally, Mr. Connell says Franklin “is a growing town and we are always looking for viable, attainable ways to improve the quality of life.  It would be more helpful to tell us what you do like instead of what you don’t like, but know even good ideas are in danger of being crushed by NIMBY.”  Respectful?

As far as I’m concerned, if Council and committees want to improve Franklin’s quality of life:

  • What advantage is it to Franklin to keep growing?  We don’t need more homes built, more traffic, and every open space developed.  Keep as much current open space as possible and continue to purchase more of it.
  • The park’s technical design is good.  The location is not.  Don’t flush $550k on something that’s not needed.
  • Focus on re-populating the empty existing commercial zones in town so we have more businesses paying more property taxes.  You think we all wouldn’t like to see our property taxes decrease?
  • Instead of spending time on solutions, first make sure there’s a problem or need.  Franklin residents are typically not shy in letting Council or committees know about problems in need of solutions.

Remember Mr. Connell, this letter is just my opinion.  Please don’t tell me it’s wrong. 

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