By Jon E. Easter
What does a neighborhood do when it can't use its neighborhood park?
Pat Andrews over at Had Enough Indy did a sensational job laying out a blow-by-blow description of a grassroots battle to save Bel Aire Park from being completely taken over by a soccer league.
As Andrews writes, Bel Aire Park is only a park because of the efforts of the neighbors in the area. They have raised thousands of dollars through their annual Gospel Fest, Chili Cookoff, and Car Show for the park and have advocated for it since the day it was opened. It has been a labor of love.
Recently, without so much as a letter or phone call to these neighborhood activists, Indy Parks signed a contract with a soccer league to allow them to use the park on the weekends. That, the alleged conduct of the league, and the alleged lack of treatment Indy Parks gave their concerns has incensed the neighbors further.
WRTV has also joined the chorus. They did an "On Your Side" report about the issue. As Andrews points out in her blog post, at issue is the definition of a neighborhood park. Bel Aire was a neighborhood park at its founding. On the Indy Parks website, it's not listed as a sports complex. It's listed as a park with a walking trail, sledding hill, and a picnic shelter and, wait for it...wait for it, as a NEIGHBORHOOD park. The description from Indy Parks' own website states:
Neighborhood parks are the most numerous in Indy Parks' inventory. These parks serve individual communities and neighborhoods throughout the city. Neighborhood parks have playgrounds and picnic shelters, and some even have water spray features to keep kids cool in the summer. If you're looking to hold a family gathering or a Sunday picnic, check out the neighborhood park nearest you.
I don't see anything about renting a neighborhood park to an adult soccer league there...do you?