Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Durham's disputed pitch
The battle over Old North Durham Park was taken up by the Durham City Council this week. According to the News and Observer the council the approved a resolution, which essentially endorses the Durham Park's and Recreation department's plan, for repairing the park's dysfunctional drainage system and replacing the athletic field's rocky surface with topsoil and grass.1
The council, while hiding under the cover of the Parks and Recreation plan, controversially agreed that the size of the field could be reduced by up to 10,000 sq.ft., much to the chagrin of local residents. The residents, despite generally supporting the Central Park School for Children's plans for nature trails, a butterfly garden and picnic spaces, are suspicious about the reduction of the size of the athletic field, the frequent site of community soccer games. The pitch, one of the only public fields of any size in downtown, has been hotly disputed.
The N&O reports Old North Durham residents and their supporters claim the city is cooperating with real-estate interests to discourage the park's use by blacks and Hispanics. Among the organizations lobbying on local residents behalf, the Durham Coalition for Urban Justice and El Kilombo. The school's coalition is represented by the Friends of Old North Durham Park.
The Clarion Content has heard much about the merits of both sides of this difficult debate. It promises to be repeated as downtown and Durham's gritty reputation grapple with avoiding gentrification.2
1If you have ever had any interaction with Durham Park's and Recreation Department, that alone could make you suspect of their plans for anything.
2It won't be easy. There is resentment, not only among haves and have-nots in Durham, but also between those who invested in the community when it was down and those who could not afford to do so.