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Helmut Schmidt, Published November 08 2013

Two Park Board members favor school in Ed Clapp Park

FARGO – Two Park Board members on Friday said they favor allowing the School District to build an elementary school in the southern third of Ed Clapp Park.

Joel Vettel, a facilities committee member, and Mary Johnson said after a Park Board facilities committee meeting that they could support the proposed school.

“Our role is to be a good community partner, Vettel said. “We’ll take a hard look at it. At the end of the day, it has to be for the greater good. And giving up some green space for a school is for the greater good.”

Johnson empathizes with Bluemont Lakes residents who don’t want their neighborhood changed, and she wants to see more solutions for traffic flow. But she, too, said she could support the school plan when it comes to the full Park Board on Tuesday.

Park Board President Ron Sorvaag also said “it looks like something we can support,” but added that he would like more concrete answers to how traffic will be routed for the school.

Traffic is “the main issue if it goes forward,” Sorvaag said.

Compensation to the Park District for the land won’t be in the form of a check, Director Roger Gress and Sorvaag say.

The Park District is seeking access to the new school’s gymnasium and perhaps agreements for using other school district facilities for parks patrons, Gress said. The Park District may also ask the school district to irrigate three soccer fields north of the school, to soften the ground and make them more desirable for use.

“We could get triple the use out of them,” Gress said.

Several people with homes near to or bordering Ed Clapp Park attended the meeting. All of them said they worry about traffic flow for the school, particularly along 30th Avenue South and on a new street included in early concept drawings just west of Bethel Church.

“How do you compensate the community” for loss of green space? Cheryl Glasner, 2743 30th Ave. S., asked.

Glasner also said she was worried that city officials may decide to build a road to link two separated cul de sacs north of the park, creating a through-link for 30th Avenue South and increasing traffic past her home by a couple hundred cars a day.

“I think everyone can agree that a new elementary school is needed based on the population and based on the location,” Vettel countered.

“This is my plea to you guys: Please, think about the neighborhood,” Glasner said. “Don’t push that traffic back into our neighborhood. Bring it back out to 32nd Avenue (South).”

Beyond green space, 44 parking spots for the senior center and Carlson Library could also be lost, “which is pretty significant,” said Brian Arett, executive director of Fargo Senior Services. The school district plan leaves 114 spots, he said.

Gress said he talked with City Administrator Pat Zavoral on Friday, and was told that if the Park Board approves the school plan, the city will hire a firm to conduct a traffic analysis of the area and recommend how traffic should best flow.

The Park Board meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the depot offices at 701 Main Ave.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583