Clarifying park issue
I would like to respond to the letter by Linda O’Brien published in the Oct. 26 issue of the Times.
I was one of the many concerned citizens involved in organizing the effort to clear the way for purchase of the Modroo land by Russell Township. For many months, impediments to this purchase were created by the Russell 1545 Park Board, a body which was intended to serve the interests of the people of Russell but whose commissioners were appointed by the probate judge rather than by our elected representatives. This situation created significant problems.
While no issue has 100 percent support in any community, the Modroo acquisition was favored by a great many people; people who were willing to post lawn signs, write letters to the local papers, and attend park board meetings in unheard-of numbers. In order to gauge community interest, we created an online survey open to all and publicized on Facebook. Of the 525 responses we received, 85 percent of respondents said that acquisition and preservation of new open land in Russell was important to them. Just 12 percent felt that Russell had enough open land and should stop acquiring more, with 88 percent supporting such acquisition. Finally, 88 percent supported the Modroo purchase.
In the face of a large and vocal public interest in the Modroo acquisition, the 1545 Park Board responded by creating barriers and by terminating public comment on Modroo and all other matters at its meetings. It was only through persistent and organized grass roots efforts that we were able to make our voices heard. We certainly did not feel represented by our park board. All of the commissioners who served at that time have since either left the board or have been removed.
It was the intransigence of the 1545 Park Board that led to the idea of creating a new board, appointed by our own elected trustees and therefore answerable to our own voters. A yes vote on Russell Township Issue 23 (which is unfortunately rather obscurely worded) will allow that board to come into existence. No levies or monies are attached to your vote. The hope is that someday Russell will be able to merge the two boards into a 511 format and bring all Russell park land under the control of one entity whose commissioners are appointed by our own elected officials. The argument that this new board threatens tax increases or that it is supported only by environmental extremists is specious. When Russell residents want to express their beliefs, values and desires, they should be heard. To do this, our local government must remain in local hands. It is that simple.
Barbara Berkeley, MD, Russell Township