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Farmington Park renovations spark dispute over basketball goals

By Published: April 26, 2019 5:23 PM CT

The omission of a dedicated basketball court from a redesign of Germantown's Farmington Park has sparked disagreement between those who consider the court a nuisance and others who believe it should be available. 

Goal rims came down recently as the city prepares to begin the final phase of renovations at the park, adjacent to Farmington Elementary School.

Removal of the goals pleased some area residents, who say it eliminates a safety concern, while others say it denies a needed activity for older children.

There will, however, be a multipurpose court positioned farther from the school as a compromise to the lack of a dedicated basketball court.

Germantown is renovating the park as part of the city's Parks Master Plan, adopted last year. Farmington was one of the first parks slated for renovation, according to Parks Director Pam Beasley. 

The second and final phase of work at the park is expected to begin as soon as Farmington students are out of school for the summer.

Work has centered on creating an environment conducive to children since they're the primary user of the neighborhood park.

“The largest customer was the school,” Beasley said. “We wanted to be mindful of that.”

As the city began looking at the redesign, it asked students about their dream playground and asked them to draw pictures. Many liked the TV show “American Ninja Warrior,” so the park has an adventure theme.

The play structures have ropes that are “strategically placed,” Beasley said. Various sides of the park will cater to different age groups, and multiple grades from Farmington can use the park during recess at the same time with age-appropriate activities.

Laying asphalt along the walking trail is the only remaining component of the first phase of work. Rainy conditions have caused delays, Beasley said.

Three new play equipment pieces have been installed as well as what Beasley calls a “plaza” – a sidewalk-like ground that can act as a “central gathering place.” 

As part of the renovations, water will be carried west where there is a large drainage ditch to address drainage issues.

The next phase calls for a play mound and a multipurpose court for various court sports, including basketball, Beasley said. A fence will surround the court, which will be a rubber-like base.

But it was removal of the dedicated basketball court that created the biggest issue.

Farmington has the only public outdoor basketball court in Germantown, and the preliminary redesign for the park's renovation did not have one. 

It's not the first time basketball courts have caused debate in a Germantown park. A court was removed at Poplar Estates Park in 2002 after residents complained about people from outside Germantown using it.

Likewise at Farmington, the city received numerous  complaints.

Mayor Mike Palazzolo sent an email to City Administrator Patrick Lawton, Police Chief Richard Hall and Beasley saying he heard “reports of the park not being maintained with regards to trash and trash containers always being full."

Additionally, Palazzolo's email said, there were comments about beer being consumed in the park, rumors of a gun at the basketball court and "excessive vulgar language.”

Neighbors also complained the court was being hoarded by adults who the neighbors thought were not residents of the city. Neighbors also complained of loud music and fights.

Although the park is intended for daytime use, lights from the tennis courts and parking lot slightly illuminated the court, causing users to leave late. Neighbors complained the court patrons were often speeding on Cordes Road.

One resident who sent emails to Beasley said he had seen  police several times at the park and that adults were hoarding the basketball court. 

“We realized adults playing next to (young children) wasn’t working,” Beasley said. “Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.”

Records show the desire to remove the basketball court was far from universal, however.

An open records request provided by the city showed more than 170 emails since 2016 between residents, city staff and elected officials regarding the park. The majority of emails came in March 2018, when the redesign did not show a basketball court.

“The community revolted,” Beasley said in a recent Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.

Because of the divided opinion, the commission conducted an online survey. The panel also asked for input from neighbors and community stakeholders. As a result of the findings, the city decided on the multipurpose court as a compromise, but to place it farther from the school.

Doing so, it was decided, would create less risk of adults using the park in close proximity to children’s activities. It also was farther from the parking and provided less opportunity for small children to run after balls.

The final phase of work on the park should be complete before classes resume in the fall. An ad hoc committee will set guidelines for the court. The group has not established how it will regulate court usage, although signs were mentioned.

Mary Anne Gibson, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen liaison to the Parks and Recreation Commission, said the commission and parks staff is working hard to create an environment “where everyone feels welcomed.”

“We hope to accomplish, in a renovated space, a place for families to enjoy being outdoors in an active and passive way,” Gibson said.

Topics

Germantown Farmington Elementary Farmington Park Parks Pam Beasley Germantown Parks And Recreation
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a May 2018 graduate of the University of Memphis.  She has worked for several local publications and has covered Germantown since May 2018.


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