The final stages of construction and the March opening of Rose Park and Sports Complex in the Edgehill community have not stemmed the controversy surrounding the project since its beginning more than five years ago.
Feelings are mixed about the renovations of the Rose Park sports facilities in the community a few blocks north of campus. Some in Edegehill opposed the plan, and it moved through legal channels until an appellate court ruled in Belmont’s favor last summer.
Joyce Searcy, Belmont’s director of community relations and an Edgehill resident, sees the renovated park as an opportunity for both the university and the community.
“We have to partner with the community to make sure the community is using the park,” Searcy said.
To do that, Searcy said, the university will partner with Edgehill to create programs for people of all ages at the park. Searcy said Belmont will do more in the community beyond Rose Park. The university plans to help with programs that include a mobile market, medicine and entrepreneurship.
“We’re just a piece of the puzzle,” Searcy said. “Whatever they need to help their community, we need to provide them.”
Even though some members of the community either support the park’s renovations or are indifferent to them, there is still opposition to Belmont’s coming into the neighborhood. The complex will be the home to Belmont’s baseball, softball, soccer, and track and field teams.
The Rev. Bill Barnes, a retired United Methodist minister and longtime advocate for Edgehill, believes that after years of discussion, the community still has not had its needs and concerns of Edgehill either recognized or addressed.
“I think it became not what the community wanted but more what the institution needed,” he said. “I think our view has become less important to them.” Barnes is also concerned about how accessible the park will be to the community and how often Belmont will use the facility. After personally asking Belmont and local officials about availability, he only recently got a legitimate response, Barnes said.
“I expected the voices and needs and the questions of our community to be answered,” he said.
According to the agreement between Metro Government and the university, the Edgehill community has priority over Belmont in scheduling. Metro Parks will be in charge of the scheduling. This part of the agreement will be watched to make sure it is kept, said Searcy, who is also a member of Organized Neighbors of Edgehill (ONE).
“One of the things ONE is going to do is to monitor the fulfillment of the agreement,” she said.
To some Edgehill residents, it seems the community has lost their athletic facilities, Barnes said.
“The issue is over basically,” he said. “The park belongs to Belmont now. It looks like the community is going to lose a meeting place.”
Despite these objections, Searcy believes the park’s improved facilities will be a real benefit to the community.
“People will be aware of the facility and use the facility. The kids of the neighborhoods will have a place to play,” she said.