Indian Rocks Beach residents gather to look at proposed designs of the pocket park at Walsingham and Gulf Boulevard.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Earlier in the day on Jan. 29 Indian Rocks Beach City Manager Chuck Coward expressed some concern that perhaps nobody would show up at a special open house the city was holding that evening. It was planned to show off design concepts for the Walsingham Road-Gulf Boulevard intersection.
He needn’t have worried. When the City Hall doors opened at 6 p.m. people were there and kept coming until it ended at 8 p.m.
The open house was twofold: To show residents planned changes to the traffic pattern at the intersection, and to show what the “pocket park” at the intersection would look like. Two designs were presented and residents were asked to look them over, talk to city officials and design consultants, have a coffee and a snack, then sit down and write out their comments. Dozens showed up and did it.
The intersection design would eliminate the right hand yield-only lane coming off Walsingham onto Gulf Boulevard. Motorists would have to come to a complete stop before proceeding. In addition the traffic island would be eliminated. The idea would be to make it safer for pedestrians.
Resident John Thayer didn’t like that part of what he saw.
“My concern is losing the yield going north,” he said. “Most people coming off the bridge are heading north. All the traffic goes north so it is going to be an inconvenience.”
Suzanne Thayer liked the park concepts.
“I liked the house better than the beaches,” she said. “I think that will be nice.”
Then she added a comment that must be music to the ears of city officials.
“I like this meeting, it is a good idea and gives us plenty of information, this is perfect.”
The park concepts that she spoke of depicted in one case a history theme and in the other, a beach theme.
In the beach theme large depictions of beach balls and beach chairs and actual sand would be in the park.
In the history theme, as seen through the frame of an old house, there would be a statue of an Indian and other depictions of parts of the city’s history.
Resident Bob Linderman liked the history concept with the Indian statue but wasn’t thrilled with the idea of an old house frame.
“There was an ugly house there when the city bought the property,” he said. “That house had no history. But I do like the idea of the park making the intersection more interesting.”
Then Linderman brought up a subject that was prevalent throughout the evening.
“I would like to see ways they can incorporate golf carts into the design,” he said. “I don’t have a golf cart but more and more people are using them and it would be nice for them to be able to get to that part of town.”
Later resident Larry Gerwig also made a case for golf carts.
“I’m proud they are trying to enhance the community,” he said. “But I wish they would find a way to help the golf carts get through that intersection and not have to retrofit it later. I do like the concepts for the park and it will portray the identity of our beach and as the public drive by they will capture the image of our beach.”
Residents Doug and Karen Davies both thought the evening was worthwhile.
“So far it is great what we’ve seen,” said Karen. “It improves the look and safety of that intersection and we think that is important.”
Coward, who had been worried earlier in the day, was anything but worried during the open house.
“I’m delighted,” he said. “I’ve seen people tonight who are very involved in the community, and I’ve seen a lot of new faces. People have turned out to offer their thoughts and comments. There was a lot of interest and curiosity.”
Those who attended were asked to fill out a form with their preferences. Coward said if there is overwhelming support for one design over the other, then that is what he’ll recommend to the commission. If not he said then both options will be presented.
Among those mingling about during the evening was Mayor R.B. Johnson. He had said earlier that he and the commissioners would be getting their first look at the park concepts at the open house. Now they will be asked to decide which one will grace what has been termed the signature intersection of the city. Coward says he hopes to have a recommendation for the commission by the end of February.