For decades, Brookings’ Azalea Park has been known as the “crown jewel” of city parks.

Perhaps it’s time to rescind that honor as the park no longer has the same character it once had when it garnered that title.

While some citizens are irate about the city council’s decision Monday to remove additional trees, the larger issue is what’s happening to the nature of the park itself. The issue of cutting trees is just a symptom of a larger, ongoing personality change.

For better or worse? We’re not sure.

We believe the removal of certain trees is required — they are diseased or pose a danger to people. And the park requires routine maintenance, not to mention clearing of underbrush to thwart undesirables.

However, recent changes — we hesitate to call them “improvements” — have transformed the park from its “woodsy,” peaceful atmosphere complete with trails and abundant landscaping into one better suited for urban cities, with expanded athletic fields, disc golf and open spaces.

We don’t blame city officials for implementing the changes, which, by the way, have occurred over three to five years — and to very little outcry.

City officials are simply responding to citizens’ requests and their own desire for a multi-use park. That vision doesn’t necessarily fit that of residents who have long appreciated the park’s natural setting but, perhaps, haven’t been there lately and were unaware of the transformation.

The reality is, the park has been transformed. The question is, should that transformation continue?

We urge city officials and citizens to get together and discuss current and future plans for the park and develope a revised vision — one that is less divisive and can hopefully restore the park’s status as a crown jewel.

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