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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Park swap, VFW plan ought to be salvaged

The Hendersonville City Council and the Henderson County were pursuing a good idea that would benefit high school athletes, recreational walkers, the city fire department, users of the beloved Laura E. Corn Mini Golf Course, city Boy Scout troops and more.

In a proposed park swap, the city would give up about half of the 60-acre Berkeley Park, which Kimberly Clark donated to the city in 2008 on the condition that it would be used for public recreation. In return, the School Board would cede Edwards Park to the city.
On the surface, the deal seemed to tilt in favor of the county: The School Board would get around 25 acres while shedding two acres it didn’t need. But for a variety of reasons — location, location, location among them — the deal worked in the city’s long-range interest too. In negotiations, School Board representatives and school administrators had tentatively committed to improving the historic Berkeley Mills Stadium for use by Hendersonville High School’s baseball team and building a diamond for the women’s softball team plus six lighted tennis courts for Bearcat varsity squads. The value for city and county residents alike is that the ballfields and tennis courts would be open to the public. What’s more, over time, the city hopes to add a destination playground, a memorial tree sanctuary and a walking trail, all of which would also benefit everyone.
By acquiring the Edwards Park property, the city hoped to solve what became the biggest bugaboo when it announced plans to build a new Fire Station 1 at Boyd Park. News that the Putt Putt course was potentially in a bulldozer’s path set off an uproar from fans of the popular summer destination. In the revised plan, the city would save the Putt Putt course by moving it across the street to Edwards Park. Because a new Fire Station 1 would also take two city tennis courts, the council was prepared to build four new courts at Patton Park.
All this is in the past tense, at least for now, thanks to the action by Henderson County commissioners on Monday night to rescind their authorization of the park swap. Commissioners had their own reason now for needing the Edwards Park land. Since last August, when the board’s vote declared the property surplus, the county has drafted an agreement to acquire and renovate the VFW post at Five Points next door to Edwards Park.
Whether the county’s action has nuked the City Council-School Board land swap or just thrown a wrench in it is hard to say. Commissioner Michael Edney, who engineered the reversal of the August vote, pointed out, correctly, that the city and county have shown they can work together on big projects for the good of all. The Health Sciences building on the Pardee campus, a new industrial park off Upward Road and the Ecusta Trail are three very good examples.
Here’s hoping that cooperative can-do spirit prevails again. The park swap could still happen, if all parties can work out some extra parking for the VFW project. That deal and the VFW renovation are both good ideas and both can likely be achieved if all three parties commit in good faith to finding a solution.