DEAR GARLAND, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??

The story starts on Oct 2, 2017, when six members of our City Council quietly voted to demolish the retired National Guard Armory buildings at Central Park ($700,000 tax value, replacement value in the millions), bulldoze a Little League field, and then spend an incredible $2.1 million to build a combination skate park and dog park (considered an unwise pairing by many dog park advocates) on the Armory site, all without making any public announcements or hiring consultants.


It was a stunning reversal since only months earlier, in April 2017, the City announced, after conducting a lengthy site review process that involved multiple public meetings, an online survey, and input from the Parks Board and Garland Pawsibilities, to build the dog park in Tuckerville Park, off Hwy 66. 


The City of Garland put out a press release in April announcing that the dog park would be opening in Tuckerville in 2018.


The abrupt and unannounced shift of location to Central Park in September, paired with vague plans for a skate park, was unprecedented, and a seemingly deliberate choice by a few people in power NOT to involve affected citizens or even other City departments and advisory boards in this decision. A handful of people rammed this through without the normal public process--something which led at least one councilman to later apologize to the Parks Board for failing to seek their input.


Residents near Central Park were not warned that a skate park would be built only 40' from their homes (the Armory's north property line nearest the slab left behind "for skatepark use"). The Little League was not warned that they'd lose a playing field. Garland Pawsibilities, an advocacy group which had spent countless hours planning the dog park at Tuckerville, was neither consulted nor informed; they learned about it from the news. Even the Garland Parks Board was not consulted! 


Zero public announcements were made. No signs were posted. The decision was finalized before most citizens knew what was happening.


Adding insult to injury, several local nonprofits had already expressed interest in leasing the Armory, including one (Dallas MakerSpace) willing to invest $500,000 to renovate and repurpose it for their community workshop and classrooms--a potential win-win for the neighborhoods and the taxpayers.


Instead,  the City Council chose to immediately bulldoze the valuable facility (first stage of demolition $47,000, with another $77,000 required if the thick slab is removed). The mostly 50+ neighborhood abutting Central Park was given no opportunity to say "NO" to the hasty plan. 


The Tony Hawk Foundation's Public Skatepark Development Guide  warns about the importance of choosing an appropriate site to prevent crime--few of which fit the Central Park site. 


In a last-ditch attempt to reason with the City Council, over 30 citizens living near Central Park appeared in person at the October 17th City Council meeting to testify and present a petition of another 100+ names of District 2 residents (along with an iPetition that even now continues to grow) pleading for the demolition plans to be put on hold until appropriate studies could be done: neighborhood impact studies, traffic studies, consulting with professionals about the wisdom of, and best siting for, a skate park and dog park (Central Park had been rejected as unsuitable in the previous study), as well as possible alternate uses for the Armory itself. 


The result?


Without hesitation, District 2 Representative Anita Goebel ignored the crowd of her own constituents to make the motion to proceed immediately with demolition of the Armory. 


Why the rush? Nobody on the Council or staff could answer that question. 


Immediately after the 10/17/17 vote, Mayor Doug Athas announced his resignation over the damaging outcome. Later three Parks Board members also resigned in protest. 


Garland citizens, outraged over the high-handed actions of six of their elected representatives, responded by filing to initiate a recall of Councilwoman Anita Goebel, who led the vote to demolish over her own constituents' protests. In less than 30 days they collected 1,026 signatures of District 2 residents, including 949 verified as registered voters. Only 800 verified signatures were required for a successful recall.


On Tuesday, December 12, 2017, Anita Goebel submitted her resignation, which was unanimously accepted by the City Council.