CLEARWATER – As efforts to revitalize Clearwater’s downtown waterfront are in full swing, city leaders have turned their attention to yet another of the city’s underutilized jewels – Crest Lake Park.
Following a year of design and surveys, public engagement and a series of community workshops, Clearwater Parks and Recreation director Kevin Dunbar presented city leaders on June 12 with a master plan for improvements at Crest Lake Park.
“We are very pleased with this whole process, especially in terms of public input,” Dunbar said.
The park, situated off Glenwood Avenue, is noted for its large lawn areas, mature treescape and picturesque lake area.
The master plan calls for dividing the park into multiple zones, including passive and active areas as well as interactive flexible spaces.
According to Dunbar, a consensus among residents who attended the community workshops was to increase water access to the lake while improving its ecology and maintaining the tree canopy currently in place.
Potential active zones for the park include playgrounds, a splash pad, exercise courts, boat docks and a dog park. Passive zones could include boardwalks and fishing piers, picnic areas, gardens, game areas and exploratory paths. Flexible zone attributes could include a pavilion, restrooms and a small amphitheater or stage.
“One of the things we are really looking to do with this plan is integrate the lake into the park,” Dunbar said.
According to Dunbar, his department has allocated approximately $1.75 million in construction for park renovations with a total budget, without design, of more than $5 million.
Dunbar also updated council members on the status of the Tampa Bay Veterans Memorial Plaza, which is a collaborative effort between the city and the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance. The city has completed phase one of the construction project, which had a $300,000 price tag – half of that raised through donations by the Alliance and the remaining $150,000 matched by the city of Clearwater.
According to Dunbar, the alliance is in talks with Pinellas County for additional funding for phase two of the project, but at the moment there is no significant fundraising in place to complete the remainder of the project, which is estimated to cost $1 million.
Dunbar recommended to council that they consider including the memorial project as a part of the overall Crest Lake Park master plan in an effort to finally complete the construction.
Currently the city has $1 million saved for the project in its capital improvement fund and an additional $750,000 allocated in Penny for Pinellas funding for the next fiscal year.
In December, Pinellas County approved $150,000 in funding for the project as a part of a settlement with BP after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The city of Clearwater was also awarded more than $6 million in its settlement with the oil company.
Following Dunbar’s presentation, council members expressed eagerness to see the project completed in a timely fashion.
“I’m just wondering if we should consider just getting this project done,” Mayor George Cretekos said. “It is probably something that everyone drives by at least once a day. We’ve been talking about fixing the park up.
“My suggestion for y’all to start thinking about is whether or not we ought to use the BP money to get this project done and get it over with,” Cretekos continued. “I think we can make a statement if we use these funds for this project.”
Vice-Mayor Hoyt Hamilton agreed that the project needed to be completed.
“I wholeheartedly agree,” Hamilton said, adding it has always been his hope to use the BP funds for a legacy project in the city. “Here we have an opportunity to take what is one of the larger jewels in our crown of parks and recreation portfolio and make it a destination.
“This would have a life, a life span, just a great impact,” he said.
Hamilton called for using the funds in their entirety to complete the entire Crest Lake Park project as a whole, rather than in phases.
Councilwoman Doreen Caudell said she had reservations about using BP funds for the park project as she felt it should be used for intracoastal waterways projects.
“I’m for getting this done,” Caudell said, asking city staff to look into alternative funding options for the project.
Dunbar said the project could most likely be completed within 18 months.
No action was taken on the item as it was only up for discussion during the workshop.