Officials hear new timbre over tree-cutting at Memorial Park in Midlothian
BY DONNA VICKROY email@example.com July 27, 2012 7:12PM
Some large trees were cut down at Memorial Park in Midlothian to make room for additional baseball fields. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 30, 2012 6:21AM
A group of Midlothian residents who live near Memorial Park were chopping mad Friday when work began on a park district plan to replace existing baseball fields with new ones.
“We didn’t know this was coming,” said Ruth Becker, who lives on 145th Street. “We didn’t know the trees would be coming down.”
As crews cut away several mature trees along the western edge of the playing field, a group of eight to 10 neighbors expressed their discontent.
“There was nothing wrong with these trees and there was nothing wrong with this park,” said Charlie Brown, who lives across the street from the park, which is at 145th Street and Sawyer Avenue.
Brown said that in 1964 he built the sledding hill to the northeast of the field, which also was being leveled.
“This is change,” Emma Parrillo said, “but it’s not progress.”
Midlothian Park District director Evelyn Gleason said the plan to replace five aging baseball fields has been in the works for two years. She said residents were notified through mailings and on the district’s website, and that news releases were sent to local media. Two public meetings were held in May 2010, she said.
Carole Spencer, who lives across the street from the park, said she never received any mailing and that the first she knew of the changes was when the bulldozers showed up about 6 a.m.
She estimated that 50 to 60 trees had come down since the work began. But contractor Tod Stanton, president of Design Perspectives, said about 20 trees, most of them cottonwoods, were to be taken out to make room for the new fields.
“Some of these trees are rotting. Most have been here for a long time and are susceptible to storm damage,” Stanton said.
“Yes, we are removing trees, but we’re also adding trees,” he said. “We’re putting in maples and other native species.”
Gleason said funding for the work came from an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant.
“The (Illinois) Department of Natural Resources oversees these grants. They have approved this plan,” Gleason said.
Several residents accused the park district of trying to make a profit off the new fields.
Gleason said officials hope the fields will be used by both residents, including Midlothian girls softball and boys baseball teams, and outside groups that pay to use the space for tournaments and leagues.
“Yes, we’re hoping this is a source of revenue,” Gleason said. “If you know anything about property taxes these days, you know we need other people’s money.”
The park, she said, will not be locked to locals but there will be times when the fields will not be available because they’ve been rented out.
For the people who live along the park’s perimeter, the changes are worrisome.
“We grew up with this park,” Spencer said. “Now it really will be a memory.”