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Updated June 18, 2010
One of the leaders of the Grandmother’s Park initiative says she is “feeling like a
yoyo, pulled one way and then another,” as deadlines loom for the purchase of land that would be developed into a tot lot in the Dewey/Darrow/Dodge/Dempster area. That area is one of the few, if not the only, area of town where there is no playground for young children within walking distance.

The group has focused on a vacant, foreclosed property on Darrow Avenue, which would be purchased with private and public money, developed into a tot lot then turned over to the City for continued maintenance.

Miscommunication between the Grandmother’s Park group and the City has been almost a parallel to the progress of the initiative.

After an initial disappointment that the cupboard in a neighborhood improvement fund targeted for the area was bare, the group requested $50,000 from a different City source – a request that was at a recent Human Services Committee.

A chain of ownership would lead to the City’s receiving the park: With the promise of $50,000 from the City, Openlands would purchase the property and hold it for up to three years while the Grandmother’s Park group raised the remaining funds for the park. The Grandmother’s Park group would then purchase the land, develop it and deed it to the City as a public park. Openlands is a not-for-profit group that helps preserve and develop open space for public use.

A representative from Openlands told the Human Services Committee earlier this month that the group would be willing to purchase the property, contingent upon the promise of the $50,000. The committee approved the request and agreed to recommend the request for City Council approval. Gay Riseborough, co-chair of the Grandmother’s Park Initiative, told the RoundTable that after that meeting, she felt the item would be on the City Council’s June 14 agenda. She said the recommendation from the Human Services Committee, coupled with the ight time schedule, led her to believe that the item would be considered on June 14. She said, though, that there had been neither confirmation from the City that that the item would be on the agenda, nor notification that it would not be. Doug Gaynor, director of parks, recreation and community service for the City, told the RoundTable that the item had never been scheduled for the June 14 Council agenda.

Nonethless, said Ms. Riseborough, the group proceeded on the belief that the item would be approved on June 14 and scheduled a closing on the land contract this week. The contract was contingent upon the promise of the $50,000, Ms. Riseborough said. When the item did not appear on the Council agenda, Openlands terminated the contract, Ms. Riseborough told the RoundTable on June 16.

On June 17, Ms. Riseborough told the RoundTable she had received an e-mail from Openlands allowing a contract extension until June 30. If the request for funds is approved at the June 28 meeting, the Grandmother’s Park group may still be able to close on the contract and complete an application for another grant, which has a July 1 deadline, she said.