Family members oppose Dodds Park as site for school

Family members oppose Dodds Park as site for school

CHAMPAIGN — Two members of the Dodds family spoke out against the idea of making the park that bears the family name the future home of Central High School at Wednesday night's Champaign Park District board meeting.

Dodds Park was mentioned last month as a site Unit 4 would have interest in — first by Champaign Schools attorney Tom Lockman at a park district meeting, then by Superintendent Judy Wiegand in an interview with The News-Gazette — but was soundly dismissed days later by the park district's president.

Despite Joe Petry's emphatic "no" to the notion days later — and Wiegand's acknowledgement that Dodds Park's 105 acres were off the table — Jason Dodds said his family was concerned about the possibility.

"We are strongly opposed to any Dodds Park usage and any overall park usage for the new Central High School facility," he told the park board Wednesday. "We think it's a bad location for many reasons. You (the park board) have spent a lot of money at Dodds Park, making it a premier park in the community and the region. I really would hate to see that go away."

In addition to 80 acres of farmland in northernmost Champaign, the school district is now exploring the Petry-floated idea of Central's next home being a 36.6-acre property stretching from Spalding Park on the east, across Franklin Middle School and to Judah Christian School on the west.

"I know the school board is scrambling to find a backup site because the other one was underwhelming for many in the community," said Jason Dodds, who asked the board to further denounce the Dodds/Central idea before it "takes off for a life of its own."

Another family member, Newton Dodds, told the park board: "You guys are in charge, but you are a park district, not a school district. We have a beautiful park there that is well-recognized around the state. I would hate to see it destroyed."

The Dodds family spoke during the public comment period. Board members did not address the issue during the open session.

Dodds Park was named after Donald Dodds — Newton's father and Jason's grandfather. Both Newton and Donald Dodds are former park board presidents.

In other business, the board elected Petry to a second one-year term as board president. It also elected Al Griggs as vice president.

Petry said one of his top goals is to upgrade Douglass Park.

"We are also looking at upgrading Spalding Park, subject to discussions with the school board," he said.

"We are focused on trails and are going to upgrade our trails plan to see if we can meet the public's needs for walking and biking. We are working on improving the Virginia Theatre programming and reducing any subsidy to the Virginia Theatre."