Workers finish up the landscaping for the reopening of Archibald Park in Madeira Beach on Feb. 14.
MADEIRA BEACH – After being closed since last July to complete nearly a million dollars in renovations, Archibald Park is back. The city’s prime gulf-front park reopened Feb. 14.
The new look features upgrades to the lighting, restrooms, decking and parking lots and additional windows for the Snack Shack cabin. A dramatic highlight is a row of date palms illuminated with turtle friendly lights that will change with the nesting season.
City Manager Shane Crawford announced the park’s opening at the Feb. 11 City Commission meeting.
“We’ve had nothing but compliments on the park,” he said.
One park attraction that beachgoers will have to do without for a while is the Snack Shack. The popular eatery serves up beach food and beverages, and will have a redone interior when it opens for business in 45 to 60 days.
Crawford said the National Park Service is approving the final parts of the contract with the new management that will run the Snack Shack.
Plans for the Snack Shack include breakfast, lunch and dinner operations, and acoustic entertainment in the evening. United Park Services will run the Snack Shack as well as the beach and cabana chair rental at Archibald Park. The company also manages concessions at Fort De Soto Park and Manatee Beach Park on Anna Maria Island.
The park was still a work in progress on opening day, with landscapers and painters on site finishing their jobs. The palm trees were in place, but many remained bundled.
The few park visitors were bundled up too, braving temperatures in the 50s and a stiff Gulf breeze. But those who came out were impressed with the new surroundings.
Herb Blommer, a snowbird from Minneapolis, proclaimed the renovated park “fantastic, really nice. It looks pretty right now, and it will be really pretty when it gets done,” he said.
Blommer said the park improvement costs were money well spent. “The council members deserve a pat on the back for this,” he added.
Blommer’s wife Kathy said the park is much nicer than before. The new walkways provide much better access than the previous little narrow ones, she said.
Angelo Farese visits seasonally from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
“This is a great facility,” he said.
“You’re doing it nice,” said Carl Drevs, who is visiting for two months in North Redington Beach from Green Bay, Wis.
Drevs’ wife Darlene said she loves the landscaping and the flowers.
“I think it’s great when you do an improvement and it turns out really good.” she said. “It was well worth the money.”
Event parking perks to end
The city will likely end the practice of giving up city-owned parking for free to holders of events. The parking giveaway had been routinely approved for the duration of festivals and other events, held mostly at John’s Pass Village.
The commission had voted earlier in the meeting to shift such approvals from the commission to the city manager. Crawford said he intends to stop the practice.
“The days of giving up our parking for absolutely free are probably over,” Crawford said. Crawford said he wants all of the events to happen, but “quite a bit of money is involved.”
He said he would work with the vendors and perhaps “meet them at the halfway point.” But Crawford stressed the days of giving away a weekend of parking revenue “can’t happen anymore.”
Civic memberships given approval
Despite objections from some residents, the commission voted to pay for commission and city staff memberships in civic organizations. City employees also would be given time off to attend functions held by the organizations.
Although the paid memberships would be limited to two a year (costing about $2,000), several residents were opposed mostly on principle. Dick Lewis said the resolution “does not represent a desirable government policy.”
“I see no benefit in using tax money to fund membership in civic organizations,” he said.
Former Commissioner Steve Kochick said he agreed. If city employees want to join these organizations, let them do it, he said. The city government should not be involved.
What if they join something the city disagrees with, like the Ku Klux Klan, Kochick said.
Commission membership in governmental organizations such as the Florida League of Cities is beneficial, Kochick said, and that is an expense the city should pay. As for civic organizations such as the Rotary and Kiwanis, “the city should step away,” he said.
Commission members said participation in civic organizations has benefits.
“I am very active in anything and everything I can attend,” said Commissioner Elaine Poe. “I always pick up some information (from attendance).”
Commissioner Pat Shontz said membership in service organizations “builds a close relationship and brings everyone together. It’s a good thing to be out in the community supporting these clubs,” she said.
Social clubs are involved in serving the community, Mayor Travis Palladeno said.
“If we work together, we can get things done.”
Despite the commission’s favorable comments on funding employee memberships in service organizations, Lewis and Kochick remained unconvinced.
“This is the worst thing you have ever done,” Lewis told the commission.
Kochick predicted the two memberships approved would be “just the start.”