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Schools are heart and soul of area

I live in the Palisades neighborhood, just a couple of blocks from Lakeridge High School and I fully support the district's effort to allow the Pacers to play 4 to 6 football games at home. Although the people opposed to this are working hard to appear 'reasonable' and 'safety conscious,' let me assure you, there's much more to their story.

From the opening of Lakeridge in 1971 up until 1999, the Lakeridge field had no lights, no bleachers and no P.A. system. When the sun went down, games and practices were over, and the neighbors enjoyed total peace and quiet. Basically, for 28 years, they lived across the street from their own personal park. It must have been great to enjoy all the benefits of living near a high school, without any of the inconveniences. Did they realize that this situation was the exception and not the rule? That living across the street from a high school, or any school for that matter, brings added traffic, noise, light and more importantly, it brings inevitable change? For anyone to believe, for even a second, that there would never be a need or desire for Lakeridge's field to be used more intensely, was naïve and totally unrealistic.

In 1999, change did arrive. With soccer and lacrosse growing in popularity and more girls playing sports, Lakeridge had to be able to use that field past dark for practices and games in order to accommodate the needs of its athletes. For the very first time, the school district asked the city for permission to install basic lights and bleachers at Lakeridge. Amazingly, the neighbors (aka Palisades Neighborhood Association) would have none of it. They hired an attorney, had professional light and noise studies conducted and did everything in their power to stop this seemingly basic request. When the DRC disagreed with them, they appealed to the city council and lost again.

Well, Lakeridge finally got its lights and bleachers; but they also got a long list of restrictions regarding use of the PA, lights and parking; many of which are now in question.

In 2006 these same 'neighbors' demanded the complete and total removal of the field lights. I guess they wanted their personal park back ... pre-1999 style, a return to the good-old days. There was only one glitch in their scheme - they had to have the neighborhood vote to approve the field light removal. A flyer was sent to all of us in the Palisades neighborhood. We were appalled that our very own neighborhood association would advocate for such a thing. After the shock wore off, … we overwhelmingly defeated the proposal and then … elected a new neighborhood board. We realized that at the hands of a few, Lakeridge had been getting the short end of the stick for a very long time.

Now we are asking to host just 4 to 6 football games a year, to use a PA system during varsity events, and to extend the use of lights by 30 minutes. City planning staff, the city fire marshal, the city traffic engineer and several professional studies all agree that, with specific mitigating measures, these changes meet all city codes and address safety, traffic, noise and light concerns in a reasonable manner.

But, just like in the beginning, there are still those who claim the changes proposed to allow Lakeridge to be a normal and typical high school, will destroy the neighborhood. I can find no examples of this ever happening … anywhere.

Undoubtedly, issues arise, but can be resolved by working together with mutual respect. In the end, schools and neighborhoods are inseparable; they bring us together and build a sense of community.

Schools do not ruin neighborhoods; they are the heart and soul of neighborhoods.

Kristen Damon is a resident of Lake Oswego.