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Forum editorial: How to ruin a perfectly good park

Runners cross the Sertoma Freedom Bridge into Lindenwood Park during the Scheels Fargo Marathon on Saturday, May 21, 2016. David Samson / The Forum

It's appalling to learn that the Fargo Park District is even considering the possibility of expanding the campground at Lindenwood Park, which could occupy space that has been set aside for decades for softball fields. Lindenwood is one of Fargo's oldest parks and, at 90 acres, is the city's largest and a true gem of the park system. It's one of the best places for city residents to go to enjoy the outdoors, with trails along the Red River and a nice pastoral calm. That sense of tranquility would be seriously disrupted—obliterated—if the Fargo Park District goes ahead with an expanded campground, where large recreational vehicles undoubtedly would flock. The area in question is close to Fifth Street South, so the entire neighborhood would be adversely affected.

Honestly, this is one of the worst ideas we've ever heard involving Fargo's park system. Lindenwood is used and enjoyed by a wide range of residents and visitors. Its trails are filled with people of all backgrounds and ages—walkers mix with runners, bicyclists, rollerbladers and skateboarders of all abilities. It's one of the truly egalitarian parts of the city, where all sorts of people flock to enjoy the outdoors. The park's picnic shelters also are widely used in season. So is the campground, now modest in size. But when the Lindenwood campground was established in 1921, camping was strictly done in tents. Today, most campers opt for large recreational vehicles, and RV campers tend to stay longer.

Why in the world should Fargo taxpayers subsidize a larger group of campers, most of whom are not from the area and don't pay taxes to help maintain the park? Joel Vettel, the park district director, says campers have expressed interest in an expanded RV campground at Lindenwood. Our response: So what? RV campers have plenty of options to park their rigs, and if there's a shortage, commercial campground operators would be happy to accommodate them. We suspect Vettel and other park administrators have their eye on revenues an expanded campground could bring in. This year, camping fees are expected to provide $160,000. If so, park officials' priorities are badly out of line.

As for the possible memorial for police, firefighters and medics, which is proposed to be built at the location now occupied by the park's softball fields, we're not convinced such a large space is needed. Honestly, what's wrong with more green space? The memorial proposal should be thoroughly vetted in public meetings to gauge public support for what appears to us to be a major alteration of this gem of a park. And park officials should reject out of hand any proposal to expand camping space at Lindenwood. It would ruin a perfectly good park.

Forum editorials represent the views of Forum management and the Editorial Board.