Oct. 19 2011 12:00 AM

Does Carol Wood’s opposition to selling a portion of Red Cedar Golf Course contradict her support for selling green space near downtown in 2000?


At the northwest corner of Butler
Boulevard and Genesee Street near downtown, a pair of two-story houses
are in good shape. Eleven years ago, passersby might have noticed
playground equipment on the .39-acre lot. Maybe even a sign that read
“Genesee Park.”

However, contrary to its appearance back then, the park
was not on the city’s inventory of “dedicated” parkland. Without such a
designation — and to some neighbors’ frustration at the time — voter
approval was not necessary for the city to sell off the land.

And so in 2003, the city did exactly
that for $30,000 to the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition. Three years
prior, a battle took place in the City Council chambers over whether
the city could sell the property without voter permission. The City
Charter requires voter approval to allow the city to sell off dedicated

But what looked like a park and acted
like a park didn’t turn out to be a park. Even though the city bought
the property in 1969, installed playground equipment, “placed it under
the jurisdiction of its Parks and Recreation Department” and listed it
in the “inventory of parks property,” the state Court of Appeals
confirmed a trial court’s decision that the property was not “required”
or listed in the city’s Master Plan. The Appeals Court ruled such in
August 2002, nearly two years after the Lansing City Council voted to
approve the sale. In those two years, the group Citizens for a Better
Lansing and residents Gregory and Lois Klink filed suit against the
city, alleging the sale of the park needed voter approval. All along,
the city’s plan was to sell the land to the Greater Lansing Housing
Coalition so it could build two houses on the property in an effort to
clean up what some residents deemed was a drug-and crime-infested park. 

A proponent of the sale all along was
City Councilwoman Carol Wood. Seemingly, this position contradicts
Wood’s view on a Nov. 8 ballot proposal to sell off nearly 13 acres of
parkland on the city’s eastside — especially when she says her
“philosophy is about the preservation of green spaces.” 

“It (Genesee Park) was never a dedicated
piece of parkland,” Wood said Monday. “There’s a big difference between
dedicated and not.” She said it was “out of the goodness of the heart”
of a former parks director that a sign was ever erected calling the
parcel “Genesee Park.” “We’re talking about something that wasn’t park

Wood also said that a previous City
Council decided in the “late 1970s, early 1980s” this parcel’s future
“was something the neighborhood could decide.” However, Council minutes
from Sept. 14, 2000, show “174 residents in the Genesee Neighborhood”
signed a petition opposing the sale of the land. Lois Klink, who with
her husband filed the suit against the city in 2002, said she was
“disappointed” by the court ruling.

“We figured it was a park when we moved
in,” Klink said Monday. She and her late husband, Gregory, lived at 905
W. Genesee St., across the street from the park. Lois Klink, who has
since moved to Haslett, said, “When we heard it was not going to be a
park, we decided we would fight it. We were living in town, we felt the
children needed space for picnics, parties, baseball — things like

Klink would not comment on whether
Wood’s position on Genesee Park — Wood said at the time it was a haven
for drug users — and that of Red Cedar is a contradiction. “I don’t
know any of the details on that.”

Rick Kibbey, president of the Lansing Parks Board, agrees
with Wood that since the property wasn’t dedicated parkland, the city
had every right to sell it. Kibbey served on the Housing Coalition’s
board at the time, he said. “One of the things that came out of that
battle is that although it may look like a park and act like a park, it
hasn’t been dedicated a park and is not a park for city purposes,” he

However, when asked if Wood contradicts herself with a
statement that preserving green space is her philosophy, Kibbey said,
“Certainly she did.” 

It’s Kibbey’s view that you have to look
at each proposal regarding parkland separately. He supports selling a
portion of Red Cedar Golf Course for redevelopment, with the “big
caveat” that any potential revenue from the sale go directly into the

“I appreciate the fact that she’s reluctant to sell
parkland. Frankly, I’m reluctant too. But as we enter the 21st century
and the city undergoes bone-wrenching changes to its demographics and
economics, we can certainly expect a change to our public facilities to
accommodate those changes. We need to look for new opportunities in a
new reality.

“I think she (Wood) needs to take a longer look, a
broader view. Any time someone brings up a big park proposal, the
answer’s been pretty much ‘No’ or ‘I have more questions that can’t be
answered.’ I think that’s unfortunate.”

Wood offers a flat “no” when asked about the perceived
contradiction. She said Genesee and Red Cedar are “apples and oranges,
not the same thing.” “There’s a difference between dedicated or
deed-restricted land versus two vacant lots that are barely large
enough for two houses. We’re not talking about 12 acres of property,”
she added, referring to the Red Cedar proposal.

“I have said that I voted to put it (Red Cedar) up to
voters to sell. I was asked about my personal opinion. I don’t support
it. I believe I have a right to my opinion. I could have easily said
it’s my prerogative not to tell you.”