Some groups feel their voices aren’t being heard about proposed changes to Forsyth Park

Some groups feel their voices aren’t being heard about proposed changes to Forsyth Park

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Changes could be coming to Forsyth Park in Savannah.

The Friends of Forsyth say they want your input on the possible changes. Some organizations, though, are already pushing back against the proposals.

Representatives of the Thomas Square Neighborhood Association and Victorian Neighborhoods Association sent a letter to the Friends of Forsyth outlining a few issues they have with the proposals for redesigning the park. *You can read the email and letter at the bottom of this story.

They say generally speaking, they believe the plans make the park less flexible, split visitors up, create new safety and maintenance concerns and reduce some of Forsyth’s most important characteristics. We spoke with the president of the Victorian Neighborhoods Association who says he believes the voices of everyday users of the park have not been heard so far in drawing up the plans.

“Our opinion is that the everyday users, the neighbors, residents and business owners adjacent to the park should be prioritized. We feel that our voice maybe matters more. We are the ones who see the park, we use the park. Some of us with our businesses adjacent to the park, that’s part of their livelihood,” said Ryan Madson, President, Victorian Neighborhood Association.

Madson says while his organization has been included in many discussions as part of the planning process, he says the VNA felt like they weren’t included in the design decision in the two proposed options.

“We believe that they really leaned into the surveys, and they’re taking some of the ideas from the survey respondents. Some of those people live adjacent to the park, some are our neighbors...many of them are not. Many of them live in surrounding areas, some of them may live in the county.”

The co-chair of the master plan project says all voices are equally important in this process, and that at this point, concept drawings are to help visualize potential changes.

“They’re really just a collection of ideas from the 2,300 surveys that we received from the community. And it’s really more just a visual way of laying them out so that it’s easier for people to see how they might be executed in the park,” said Eleanor Rhangos, Co-chair Forsyth Park Master Plan Project.

Still, proposed changes to the walkway dissecting the south end of the park, the path around Forsyth and the playground space are a concern for those who use the park on a daily basis.

Madson said, “There’s no value added by removing the central promenade and separating it into different pathways. If there are other decisions behind it having to do with the canopy trees, it would be good to know what those decisions are so we can make a more informed decision about these two options.”

“There’s a great deal of concern with parents and families with the idea of moving the playgrounds in closer proximity to some of the busier streets. And there’s a lot of concern about encroachment on the great lawn. Because we use those on a daily basis,” said Nancy Maia, VP Victorian Neighborhoods Association, West Side.

The neighborhood associations and Friends of Forsyth are in agreement that preserving the integrity of the park and making improvements to the tree canopy should be priority.

“We all love it, we want to protect and preserve it,” said Rhangos. “They have some specific issues that absolutely, we want to sit down and have a better understanding of. But really those details are exactly what we want to hear at exactly this point in the process.”

The Forsyth Master Plan Project leaders say they have reached out and spoken to at least one of the neighborhood association presidents who signed that letter addressing their concerns, and are working to talk to the others.

Several public forums are being held virtually throughout April over Zoom for community feedback. The current meeting schedule is as follows:

  • Monday, April 19, at 6:30 p.m. with Alderwoman Wilder-Bryan, District 3
  • Wednesday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. with Alderman Leggett, District 2
  • Wednesday, April 28, at 6:30 p.m. with Alderwoman Shabazz, District 5

The Zoom link for all meetings is https://zoom.us/j/4342148253.

The survey can also be filled out online here by April 30, or in-person at the park on April 10, 17, or 24. The deadline to comment is April 30.

Below is the email that was sent to Savannah City Council members:

“Dear Mayor and Alderpersons of Savannah,

Attached is a letter from the Thomas Square Neighborhood Association and Victorian Neighborhoods Association addressed to the Friends of Forsyth Park (FoFP) group regarding the proposed Master Plan options for the park. We are strongly opposed to moving forward with either of the plans. We would like to request that FoFP and their design consultants address community concerns with an alternative design that emphasizes preservation, stewardship, and strategic enhancements rather than unnecessary additions and changes to the park.

Based on public comments at the community hearings with Alderman Palumbo and Purtee this week, concerns about the master plans are widespread and touch on many common themes. In short, the whole thing looks a lot like this: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Please refer to our Letter to Friends of Forsyth Park, which contains a general overview of our position as well as important criticisms/issues with the master plan(s) as proposed.

With highest regards,

Ryan S. Madson

President

Victorian Neighborhoods Association”

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