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Arlington park’s neighbors at odds over entryway

Many residents living off West Abram Street near the railroad couldn’t be happier that development of O.S. Gray Park, a small tract chock full of pecan trees, is now under way.

But some property owners are at odds over opposing visions for the park’s entrance and facilities location.

Background

The city bought the 15-acre site from the Trust for Public Land, which buys nature sites to save them from development, then sells them back to cities with the agreement that the sites will be used for public projects.

Plans for a park were announced in 1998, and the project was included in the 2001 parks master plan. But the park was put on hold in 2004 because the city had insufficient funding and department staffing.

Arlington voters approved $200,000 to develop O.S. Gray Park in the 2005 bond election. The Parks and Recreation Department began holding public meetings late last year to inform residents of the plans.

The park is named for nature researcher Oscar S. Gray, who died in 1977 and was nationally recognized for his hybrid pecan trees and holly plants, which he sold from the now-defunct O.S. Gray Nursery. Gray grew the trees and plants at the park site.

Park facilities include a 25- to 30-space parking lot, a playground with two play areas, a covered pavilion for picnics, and a lighted hiking and biking trail.

The conflict

The city planned to put the park’s entrance across West Abram Street from the gated community Channing Park to preserve enough of the historic pecan trees as possible. Area residents living near Norwood Drive and just south of the park supported this original design — Option A — from the beginning.

Parks planning manager De’Onna Garner said Option A attempts to preserve the site’s natural elements. Channing Park neighbors, however, worried that the design may give park patrons easy access to their neighborhood and feed heavy traffic into the area.

Residents also are concerned about nighttime lighting and noise.

In response, park planners developed Option B, which moves the entrance 250 feet west.

Channing Park neighbors also requested that a traffic light be installed at the park’s entrance, but city traffic engineer Paul Iwuchukwu said the projected traffic volume doesn’t merit a light.

Iwuchukwu deemed both options safe, but said Option A would also reduce traffic congestion and conflict points between Norwood Drive and Channing Park.

Option A proponents say

“It seems to be less destructive on the work of the hybrid trees. I feel it’s very important to preserve the nature area. I understand the concerns from the Channing Park residents, but I’m not sure it’s enough to warrant cutting down trees and change a plan that was quite workable.” — Peggy Quinn, Arlington Downs Townhomes resident

“I believe that this is the safest option for the placement of facilities and playgrounds. Also, the concept from the very beginning was that this should be left alone as much as possible. This is the last tiny slice of a once great pecan nursery.” — Kevin Donovan, resident of Clover Park, a neighborhood south of O.S. Gray Park

Option B proponents say

“People can get in our gate after the park is closed by following our residents into the community. We’re very concerned about possible home burglaries. We want a traffic light for kids to cross the street, and right now there is no controlled way for kids to cross the street. For me, it’s difficult to understand why the city would want to use the original plan when everyone objects.” — David Cain, Channing Park resident

“If our gate is open, someone leaving the park can rush across the street and enter our neighborhood. When the original plan was made — the idea and the concept — there were no houses here. A lot of things are here that weren’t there then.” — Paula Harbour, Channing Park resident

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