INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Dozens of people showed up at City Hall in April to look over plans for a proposed park adjacent to East Gulf Boulevard.
City officials and commissioners were there to explain to residents exactly what the plan entails and to hear their views on the proposal.
It would appear the crowd was divided. Some like the idea; others loath it.
The park would be built on city-owned land at the end of East Gulf Boulevard. The land is a strip 100 feet wide and 500 feet long, roughly 1.1 acres.
The land is currently not developed in any way. The growth is mostly exotic species, Brazilian peppers and pines.
The plan is to rid the area of those trees and, create a walkway of shell that would run into a longer boardwalk through the wetland.
In addition, a space would be created for the launching of kayaks and canoes.
There will be no amenities such as washrooms or electricity and the park would only be open from sunrise to sunset.
The strip of land separates two distinct housing developments, single homes on one side and condos on the other. Many of the people who showed up for the meeting were residents of the area and most did not like the plan.
Jan Schwamberger lives adjacent to the proposed park and she’s worried about what it might bring.
“There will be too much traffic and noise,” she said. “What about the potential vandalism and there isn’t enough parking as it is. I like it the way it is because it provides a buffer between the two housing developments.
Schwamberger said she was confident the city officials will listen to their complaints.
Ardith Akers is another neighbor who doesn’t like what she sees.
“We like our privacy and this will take it away once they cut down the trees,” she said. “There is no need for the canoe launch; there is already a place for that in the city.
Akers was also concerned about the potential noise and traffic the park will bring.
Not far away, her husband, Larry Akers, added to their concerns.
“We’ve been here for 25 years; we’re original owners,” he said. “Our property butts up against the proposed park. I don’t like it; the gains of the park do not outweigh the negatives.”
Akers said he was concerned about losing the trees because it is somewhat of a bird sanctuary. He’s also concerned about losing privacy and the potential for raucous parties by teenagers after hours.
“It is chaos in the making,” he said.
Another neighbor, Sarah Josephson, said she moved to the area year ago and is concerned about the proposed park because of traffic issues.
“We have limited space for parking as it is. There are 91 units here and only four visitors’ spots. I’m concerned we’ll lose those,” she said. “I’m also concerned about possible accidents with more traffic coming here, and what about emergency vehicles. Will they be able to get through?”
Not all the neighbors of the proposed park are totally against it.
“I’m ambivalent about it,” said Phil Spuler. “I like the privacy the way it is now but I also like canoeing and the proposed launch will be good for that.”
But Spuler said the park would make a tight squeeze even tighter.
As with every new proposal in a community there are those on both sides.
Realtor Tricia Priest is one of those who likes the proposal.
“I like the idea that they are taking something that is nothing now and making it useful,” she said. “I love the idea.”
Former Mayor R.B. Johnson is another one who likes what he sees.
“This is something that I’ve wanted for years,” he said. “We have been talking about this for a long time. It is the last piece of city-owned undeveloped land in the city.”
Whether it happens or not now depends on what the City Commission decides.
Each person who attended the event had an opportunity to fill out a form giving their views on the proposal as well as an opportunity to add new ideas to it.
City Manager Gregg Mims will go over the forms and report back to the commission.
Mims also said he was confident he could secure a grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission for at least half the cost of the project. The consultant estimates that the park will cost $170,000, Mims said he has already budgeted $200,000 for it in the five-year plan.
Mayor Cookie Kennedy said she was pleased with the resident participation at the event.
“It was a wonderful turnout, and we’ll get a good idea on how residents feel about the park,” she said. “I’m sure we’ll get lots of good ideas and I’m pleased the staff was here to address residents’ concerns.