From: Theresa Hyle
I recently attended the July 5 public hearing, regarding the proposed demolition of the East End Rec. Center in order to expand and provide new facilities for the Winona Police Department and the Winona Fire Department. Potentially, should the parish decide it wanted to sell the building, St. Stan’s school and site could be acquired to demolish and potentially build a new, albeit much smaller, recreation center/senior citizens’ center combination. Although it was mentioned that there would be expanded opportunity for green spaces, looking at the St. Stan’s site, it is difficult to understand how it would be possible to include more green space in a space that is, at most, half of the size of the site now occupied by the East End Rec. Center.
I fully understand the needs to provide adequate facilities for the Winona Fire Department as well as the Winona Police Department. What I do not understand is exactly why it is that the children of Winona are once again being expected to give up recreational and educational space for the needs of some adults. Or perhaps, I should be more precise and say that I do not understand why it is that the children living in Winona between the Mississippi River and Lake Park are expected to once again give up space designed for their needs in order to accommodate adult needs. Three elementary schools have been closed, along with the playgrounds which had been equipped largely by funds raised by the local PTA, leaving no public playground within walking distance for children who once attended Madison, Central, or Lincoln schools. Children living in Knopp Valley and Valley Oaks still have lovely green spaces, playground equipment, and ball fields marked out for their use, as well as signage noting reduced speed limits and children at play. Why are we asking the children and families of Winona’s East End to give up their recreational space?
I served on the WAPS transportation committee for years, trying to get reduced speed limits, stop signs, and signage around elementary schools. Eventually, we did get some stop signs, but to my undying shame and regret, those stop signs did not come until a child was killed crossing Broadway.
When my family moved here 34 years ago, we saw so many parks and schools. We believed that Winona would be a great place to raise a family. In more than three decades, the disappearance of three neighborhood schools and their recreational space has led us to conclude that Winona doesn’t value children’s safety or education as much as we were led to believe and certainly values some neighborhoods much more than others. Why? Why do the children of Winona’s city center — and specifically now, the East End — count less than the children of Valley Oaks, Knopp Valley, Garvin Heights, and other neighborhoods located in valleys and on bluffs? Does one need to live in the (white) right neighborhood to count?