Demolition of baseball fields upsets Riverton residents (video)
Tegan Melanson used to go to Riverton's Main Park to play baseball, but now, when the 8-year-old visits, he just bawls.
The park is the former home of Utah Select, an accelerated for-profit baseball league, which involved more than 1,700 youths from all over Utah. Tegan has been playing in the league for the past four years.
The park, and its five baseball diamonds, were demolished on July 5, one month earlier than scheduled, to make way for a new park that does not include any diamonds.
Some residents are upset that the city did not keep the Aug. 15 demolition date previously announced in Riverton's June newsletter, especially because they were under the impression that they would still have an opportunity to provide input at a City Council meeting on Tuesday.
Teveka Melanson, Tegan's mother, believes that there has not been enough public input, so she started a petition to put the city's plan and the residents' plan to a vote.
Before, she wanted to save the diamonds. Now, Melanson and her supporters have shifted their focus to get some baseball diamonds included in the new park.
She urges even those who do not want baseball diamonds at the new park to sign the petition so they have the opportunity to provide input on what the new park will look like, especially because they will be paying for it.
"Even if you vote to not have baseball diamonds, at least you had the chance to vote," Melanson said.
Melanson will be at the south side of the park, at 12300 S. 1300 West, at 10 a.m. Saturday to collect petition signatures. The petition is only open to those registered to vote in Riverton. To force the vote, the petition must have 20 percent or approximately 4,000 valid signatures.
"If [the city] thinks that this is the best plan for the park," Melanson said, "why not let us vote on it?"
The city found the change in the demolition date necessary to complete the project by the park's expected opening.
"It was necessary to continue demolition of the existing facilities as soon as possible following the conclusion of the 2013 Riverton Town Days," according to a July 8 statement from the city.
It noted that "ample opportunity has been provided for public input regarding the park renovation."
Assistant City Planner Jeff Hawker said the city moved up the demolition date to allow for extra construction days.
"It's a very extensive renovation, and we needed to get all of the construction days that we could get," Hawker said. "We don't know what weather delays are going to happen."
The plan is to have the park ready in time for Riverton's 150th anniversary in 2015.
"If it had been the 103rd or 74th or something like that, I don't know that the significance would be attached," Hawker said.
Teveka Melanson said she spoke to City Recorder Virginia Loader on June 17 about the demolition. In that voicemail exchange, Melanson was told to attend the City Council meeting on July 16, which would provide time for residents to have a dialogue with the council and learn more about the $19 million renovation bond and the new park.
"The purpose of the meeting on the 16th is that people can give public comment on the issuance of the bond," Hawker said. "I suppose someone could say, 'We don't need these park improvements, so we don't need the bond.' "
LaRaine Winberg Boska, who has lived across the street from the park for 52 years, said Mayor Bill Applegarth told her on the Fourth of July that the demolition would not occur until late August.
"I need to get pictures. This is my childhood, my memories," Winberg Boska said.
Applegarth assured her that she would have the ability to get photos of the park, she said. "He said, "Don't worry, you have plenty of time.' "
The next morning, July 5, the fields were being demolished.
Asked about the exchange, Hawker said, "The mayor said that he never said that to anyone."