Recap of the Parks & Recs Advisory Council Meeting on 11/13

The meeting was held in room 111 of Fayetteville City Hall and started off like many advisory council meetings. There were five people there in favor of saving Lewis, a pair of developers, and several Boy Scouts. We were given five minutes to speak after the developers and a proposal for an Eagle project. This is roughly the speech that was given by Will Dockery:

“I appreciate the work that the parks and rec has done to build Kessler, especially with the knowledge that they previously had that Lewis would be repossessed by the u of a. However, now that the u of a is planning on selling the land and not using it for intramural fields it makes sense to me and a lot of other citizens over 400 and counting in Fayetteville to try and keep it as a park and open space.

Kessler just doesn’t have the capacity for demand already or in the future. According to the park master plan we should have at least 12 full size adult soccer fields. We have six at Lewis, two at walker, and three at Kessler. With the potential for just two more. Kessler still has millions of dollars worth of work that still needs to be done to get those two fields. If we could save Lewis, even at market value, which I believe the city and university could work something out, perhaps with the help of ngos and local businesses, which I already have pledges from a handful of businesses, it would still be magnitudes cheaper than finishing Kessler.

This is not even considering the cultural heritage of the fields. Many lower income adults and children and use Lewis where as they can’t use Kessler due to travel or other restrictions — you can walk to Lewis you can’t walk to Kessler, the lack of open space in that area of town if Lewis were to be developed and the fact that once this green space is gone it’s not coming back. New York city is commended for the forward thinking of central park to this day. I’m not saying Lewis is central park BIG but please think forward to 20, 30, 40, 100 years down the road and Lewis is in the down town part of our city. Where will the green space be?”

Joyce Richards also spoke in favor of Lewis Park. She mentioned how she has lived out next to Lewis since the 70’s and has seen the area be built up. She implored the council to think about where the green space would be if Lewis was gone. Joyce also asked them to consider the skyscape and the other intangible losses that would happen once Lewis was gone.

The Parks & Recs council members were very sympathetic to our cause. They encouraged members of #SaveLewis to talk to our city council members — especially those of us who live in Ward 2. Connie Edmonston, the Parks & Recreation Director, seemed to believe that there weren’t issues with Kessler and that it was adequate for the city’s needs. She also mentioned that they were going to recommend that the lease for Lewis be canceled early at the next city council meeting. I think we may have stepped on Connie’s toes a bit as she has worked very hard on Kessler Regional Park and she took the criticism personally. That was not our intention. She has done a good job getting Kessler built. In fact, we believe that Fayetteville needs Kessler, but we also believe that Fayetteville needs Lewis too.

There were some back and forth questions between the gallery and the council. Several council members even said that they were for our cause, but that there was not much they could do. It would be up to the city council and Mayor.

The meeting item was closed at that point as there was no further productive discussion and we thanked them for their time. The key takeaways from this meeting are:

  1. We need to call and email our city council members. If you haven’t reached out to them about Lewis you need to do that today.…

  2. We need to let our fellow citizens know about this issue. You need to talk to your neighbors and friends and let them know that Lewis will be for sale. Tell them to tell their neighbors and friends. Post it to your social media. Get the word out.

  3. We need to start collecting signatures for a petition. Ultimately, it is going to come down to how many people in Fayetteville think it is more important to have a park and green space than be apathetic about more condos or apartments going up.

  4. We need to show up, and show up in force, to the November 21st City Council meeting at 5:30 pm in room 219 of City Hall.

Thank you for you support. Together we will #SaveLewis.

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