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Letter: Don't accept false dilemma on land swap

To the Editor:

In 1985, when my husband and I lived on DeKalb’s north side, we discovered a vast green space on the south side of town where our kids could run, play, fly kites and endlessly explore.

This spot is now called Kiwanis Park.

It’s true that soccer drew us to this beautiful park, and that over the next 15 years, our children played AYSO and club soccer there, while my husband coached nearly two hundred young players.

But it was the park itself that made us stay.

We eventually decided to relocate to the south side: The draw of living near a school campus surrounded by woodlands and park space was irresistible.

So I was distressed to read Editor Eric Olson’s Nov. 17 take on School District 428’s proposed land swap. His dismissive attitude toward “soccer moms” glosses over important questions that should be investigated, ignores critical perception problems for the school board, and presents a false dilemma for the public.

Why is the school board in the position of asking the city’s planning commission to rezone land from single to multiple-family to accommodate a developer? What track record does said developer have in neighboring communities and in downtown DeKalb itself?

Why does the school board own parkland that is clearly labeled as park district land? Why, then, was the park district only notified of the swap plan six weeks ago?

Most importantly, who really stands to benefit from this deal?

Certainly not the 750 kids being displaced, nor the countless citizens who use Kiwanis Park’s new bike path, enjoy the recently transplanted trees, picnic in the ample shelter structure, birdwatch, practice putting, walk dogs, and yes, play soccer in this treasured space.

To say we have an either-or proposition—swap valuable green space widely enjoyed by all or financially strap the school district, preventing them from hiring a new teacher – is disingenuous.

The convoluted series of events that led us to this peculiar proposition should provide the park district, school board, DeKalb City Council, and residents with the opportunity to sit down together to find a solution that doesn’t sacrifice space that is essential to the healthy life and future of our community.

Though my proud soccer mom days are behind me, neither I – nor my children, nor my children’s children – will ever outgrow the need for protected green space.

Laurie Erdmann

DeKalb

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