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Sadness as Park Street becomes a parking lot

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I read with a sense of sadness your recent article on the hospital's plans for the development of what they call a new "St. Mary's Campus," which, according to the diagram accompanying your article, will convert our old neighborhood to a parking lot.

Our family grew up at 210 Park Street. Our father, Jack Benshoof, was born in that home in 1910, and he and our mother, Helen, raised the five of us there in the 1950s and 1960s. The names of neighboring families, probably not recalled today by very many, were the Andersons, Jacobsons, Smiths, Wees, Eckerns, Wittenbergs, Oiens, Swansons, Pearsons, and Blandings.

Park Street did look like a "park." Lovely elms lined the street (most planted in the early 1900s by our grandfather, Lou Benshoof, who had owned our home, as well as another at the end of the block) which gracefully arched over the street, forming a luxurious canopy of green.

Now it seems Park Street will become a very different kind of park -- a "parking lot" -- and Detroit Lakes will lose forever yet another of its elegant, old neighborhoods. This seems uncomfortably very similar to what was recently done to three of Detroit Lakes' most gracious avenues to the lake -- Lake, Summit and Minnesota -- where dozens of old trees lining those avenues were destroyed.

It isn't an easy task for any community to balance the goal of economic development with, at the same time, preserving the essence of what has made that community a special place in which to live in the first place. Development which ends up spoiling a community's assets so severely that more people are ultimately turned away, than are drawn to it, is very much a mixed "blessing."

None of this is meant as criticism of the hospital. We sold our family home to the hospital last year and found Tom Thompson in particular to be a very courteous person to deal with, sensitive to the difficulty of our decision to part with the home in which we all grew up.

I do worry, though, that the major development steps taken by the city in recent years are getting very close to crossing that line between change which enhances a community, and that which degrades it. I hope that community leaders will continue to keep in mind, as I'm sure they try to, that not all proposals to build yet another asphalt parking lot, or "widen" streets by bulldozing the trees which line them -- trees which have pleased us all with their beauty and serenity for decades -- are necessarily good.

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