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Residents voice concerns on changes being made to Lincoln’s Cooper Park

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 7:01 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Lincoln’s oldest park, Cooper Park, will soon undergo major changes, ones neighbors are far from happy about. On the other hand, agencies involved said these improvements will benefit people living in the South Salt Creek Neighborhood.

10/11 NOW’s Kamri Sylve was able to see just how much people in the neighborhood use Cooper Park as she watched people walk their dogs and kids ride their bikes. All of these are things neighbors tell her they fear they might not be able to do in the future when these changes happen.

The biggest one will be a new driveway for Park Middle School, which will connect to 6th street but will also remove a chunk of the park.

“I think it’s just unnecessary,” said Janine Copple who’s lived in South Salt Creek for more than 30 years.

Copple isn’t the only one feeling this way. “We need to continue to preserve the integrity of the park,” added Justina Clark, president of the South Salt Creek Community Organization.

Right now, Cooper Park sits on more than 11, but it’ll soon be cut down as work for a new driveway gets underway. “A major, huge development was part of it, and we did not know about it in advance. It was really presented to us like, ‘It’s a done deal. This is what’s happening,” said Clark.

This driveway will stop access into Park Middle School from 8th Street, moving it to 6th Street. “I think you’re causing more problems than you’re really taking care of,” said Gary Irvin, after living in South Salt Creek for almost 50 years.

A part of these additions will include new parking bays for park visitors, which neighbors say might do more harm than good, especially since they’ll limit parking for people currently living on 6th Street. “I see the people flying up and down the street. So, while it might help with the traffic during drop-off and pick-up hours, it’s going to be a negative impact outside of school hours because it makes it easier for people to travel even faster down this road,” Clark said.

10/11 reached out to Lincoln Transportation and Utilities and Lincoln Parks and Recreation who say the’ve been in close communication with South Salt Creek neighbors.

“To develop solutions that really are best for the people who live in that neighborhood and are best for the park but are also really safe for students coming and going from Park Middle School to make that situation safe as possible,” said Lynn Johnson, director for Lincoln’s Parks and Recreation.

Neighbors tell us their concerns aren’t just for right now. Clark asked, “What’s going to happen to the park 10 years from now or 50 years from now?”

LTU said they’ll be reducing the speed limit along 6th, 8th and G Streets from 25 mph to 20 mph, but residents we spoke with said they’d like to see reinforcements with this change, like flashing lights or speed bumps.

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