People opposed to building the new preschool at Elm Grove Park plan to show their support for the park on Saturday. They are having a Save Elm Grove Park Party at the park from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, February 11.
“We are inviting all members of the community who wish to show their support, as well as the members of the Oak Ridge City Council and Board of Education, so that they may see firsthand how the community feels about this historic site,” said Jordon Bell, who started a Save Elm Grove Park petition.
Elm Grove Park is on East Tennessee Avenue in east Oak Ridge. It’s owned by the city, and it once had a school. It was initially the preferred site for the new Oak Ridge Schools Preschool, which has been on the city’s wish list for many years.
But Elm Grove Park is now one of two possible sites for the new preschool. The other is Scarboro Community Center in central Oak Ridge. A day care center recently closed at the center, and city officials are now considering whether to add on to that city-owned building on Carver Avenue to house the preschool.
The two sites were discussed at a joint work session between the Oak Ridge Board of Education and Oak Ridge City Council on Thursday, January 26. Conceptual site plans and public safety statistics were presented to the two boards.
Studio Four Design, which presented the conceptual site plans, was asked to come back with more information about the two sites—an “apples to apples” comparison—at the February 27 school board meeting. The BOE could act at that meeting, and the City Council could take action during a March 13 meeting. The additional information could include rough cost estimates.
Financing for the project, which would include bonds, could be included in the city budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
In the meantime, there continues to be opposition to the Elm Grove Park site. The petition had been signed by 215 people as of noon Thursday, February 9.
“While the majority of residents are in full support of the preschool program and would like to see its future assured, we feel strongly that Elm Grove Park would be an inappropriate location for the building,” the petition said. “Such a building would destroy one of our city’s great assets: a lovely neighborhood park used by people of all ages and in all seasons.”
In an update posted to the online petition, Bell said the school will have a fence around it to protect preschool children, and that means the only thing left at Elm Grove Park will be the playground facilities and an “awkward” portion of walking trail.
“No more room for kids to play soccer or football, no more picnic spots under the mature trees,” Bell said.
He said he has talked to two Oak Ridge City Council members who think that Scarboro Center is a better location.
So far, there doesn’t appear to be any significant public opposition to locating the preschool at the Scarboro Community Center, which would be expanded.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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