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Arbor Park proponents decline to answer invitation for debate

Arbor Park, situated between Sledsters and Norby's Work Perks downtown on South Fourth Street. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

A debate to discuss a citywide vote on the future of a downtown green space probably won't happen after one side declined to answer an invitation.

The Herald-sponsored event was to be held June 1 at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks. The subject of the debate was to be the downtown green space called Arbor Park; on June 20, city voters will decide whether Arbor Park should be left as a pocket park or developed for business use.

On May 5, the Herald delivered invitations to members of the Downtown Development Association and also to Mary Weaver, who owns a downtown art gallery. The DDA is in favor of developing the park, while Weaver has been an outspoken proponent of saving the park, which is next to her store.

DDA Executive Director Sarah Prout and downtown business owner Jonathan Holth both accepted the invitation.

However, Weaver on Thursday said she could not get an answer from others who have formed a pro-park group. When asked the names of the others, she declined to give them. Herald Publisher Korrie Wenzel visited Weaver's store three times in the past week seeking an answer.

The Herald suggested each side form panels to participate in the debate. Holth, who is a co-owner of the Toasted Frog in downtown Grand Forks, said he would have been on the debate panel on the pro-development side. He said others expected to participate on the pro-development panel were Prout and Happy Harry's owner and former City Council member Hal Gershman.