Opponents of a proposed baseball diamond and community park in Chaska are down to their last at-bat Monday night as the City Council appears ready to approve the project.
The 22-acre, $500,000 park project has been in the works since early last year, but residents of the Chaska Points West neighborhood near the new Hwy. 312 and Victoria Drive have been putting up a spirited fight against it.
"The whole neighborhood doesn't want this to be built," said Christian Ward, who lives across the street from the site.
The group has gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition, set up an elaborate website to keep residents updated and flooded the City Council with e-mails and letters protesting the park plans.
The group's main concern is that the ball field will lead to traffic congestion and also produce a lot of noise because it is expected to be heavily used during baseball season and at other times by the community.
Neighborhood residents said they would instead like to see a neighborhood park -- which would be a third to a quarter the size of the proposed ball field -- because nearly every household in the area has children.
"We've already got an issue with kids playing in the street," Ward said. "If you put in a ballpark, you're going to introduce more traffic. They are going to come zipping through our streets. All it takes is one accident."
The park was slated to be called Chaska Veterans Memorial Park, but the controversy has led the local American Legion Post to ask the city to move a planned veterans memorial to another location.
"Since the current park plan ... is embroiled in controversy with the neighborhood, the committee feels this casts a negative image on the Veterans memorial," wrote American Legion Cmdr. Steve Nelson in a letter in the Chaska Herald in December. The letter also was signed by Ken Neukircher, commander of the Chaska chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Dave Pokorney, Chaska city manager, said the city has been working with the neighborhood to try to address concerns.
He said the idea for a community park has been around for years, but it was only last year that the city's Parks Department settled on a baseball field as the desired facility.
Pokorney said the city has made changes to its original plans to make it more palatable to the neighborhood.
He said the entrance to the park's parking lot has been reconfigured to limit or block easy access to or from the surrounding neighborhood. Also, the diamond has been moved east on the site, away from the nearest home -- making home plate more than 500 feet from the closest residence.
At one point last year, the city stopped grading work on the park site because of the neighborhood's concerns. The council also sent the project back to the Parks and Recreation Department and the Parks Commission for review.
But earlier this month, the Park Board returned with another plan for the baseball diamond, which is expected to be used by adults and older teenagers almost daily during baseball season.
"It really reflects the need for new fields," Pokorney said.
He also said if veterans are still hesitant to be connected to the site, then the city will remove the veterans memorial and leave it as open green space.
Pokorney said he expects the City Council to approve the project because it already approved the preliminary plan early last year.
Herón Márquez Estrada • 612-673-4280