Community Concerned Over New Plan For MLK Magnet
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Watkins Park is one of the only places in the neighborhood where Kalia can go to let off some steam.
"This is something convenient where the kids can walk," her mother Kanitha Ellis said.
Under a new proposal Watkins Park could change.
"Watkins Park has been a part of this community for years and we need it," Deborah Wilhoite, Vice President of the J. Henry Hale Resident Association said. "We need it now more than ever."
The park is part of a complex plan to relieve future overcrowding at Martin Luther King Magnet, that includes building an addition to accommodate 300 more students.
"I would probably come back to Metro Council and ask for you to partner with us in the park across the street to use some of that property in a different way," Director of Metro Schools Dr. Jesse Register said to council members on Monday.
Part of the park could become the school's soccer field, with space used for additional parking.
"Of course it's just a park," resident association President Emilio Hughes explained. "But it's just a park that's really the playground for our kids."
More than 200 children live across the street at the J. Henry Hale apartments. The community lost its parks when it was redeveloped years ago.
"In essence they were saying everything we needed would be in the surrounding area," Wilhoite said about the answers she received after complaining about a need for more recreational areas for the children in the community.
Residents acknowledge the changes to Watkins Park may be inevitable, but they want their voices to be a part of the conversation, with the needs of their children addressed.
"We're not against any of what's taken place," Hughes said. "Let's move (the park) from there and relocate it somewhere in the community where the kids can still have access."