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Park board members will not seek re-election

updated: 1/4/2019 12:01 PM

The recently besieged Carbondale Park District will see at least one significant changing of the guard in next spring's election with the news that three incumbent members of its board of commissioners will not be running to keep their seats.

With three of five board seats up for grabs in the April 2 election, none of the three incumbents -- Rick Erickson, Zenetta Coleman and Kathy Hollister -- is seeking to remain.

Instead, their seats will go to three of the five newcomers whose names will appear on the ballot: Kirsten Trimble, Jane Adams, Jessica Sergeev, Brian Matzenbacher and Dan Anderson III.

Erickson, who serves as the board's current vice president, said he has enjoyed his service to the board over the past several years, particularly the effort to secure funding for and construction of the Super Splash Park.

But he said recent contentious developments between the city and the park district made it clear to him that it was time to step away.

"I just got tired of practicing and rehearsing in my head how to defend us," Erickson said.

Last week, the Carbondale City Council voted to put an advisory referendum before the public in the April 2 election asking whether the city and park district should consider merging their operations.

The question comes after months of mounting debate between the entities, which function as separate bodies even as the city owns the land used as Turley Park, Tatum Heights Park, the Pyles Fork Creek preserve, Evergreen Park and portions of the Carbondale Superblock. The park district leases the properties and maintains them.

With the leases for Turley, Tatum Heights and Pyles Fork Creek having expired, the park district sough renewal earlier this year, along with a new $150,000 annual stipend from the city to be used in maintaining them. Their conversation quickly turned into one about the city potentially swallowing the park district entirely.

Hollister was adamant that she is stepping away from her role with the park district to pursue other projects -- not because of the growing acrimony over park district operations.

"I feel like I've done my service, but I feel like I'm on another mission now," Hollister said.

The Times left a voicemail message for Coleman but had not heard back by press time Thursday.

Park district Executive Director Kathy Renfro said she is looking forward to "new energy" on the board, and praised the service of the three departing members.

"We appreciate their leadership and the level of integrity they've brought to the park district," Renfro said.

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