ST. PETE BEACH — Earlier this year, Trip Advisor’s Travelers Choice Awards named St. Pete Beach second-best beach destination in the U.S., and ranked it 16th greatest in the world, but at least one commissioner is not happy with Instagram acclaim that dubbed Pass-A-Grille as having one of Pinellas County’s best dog beaches.
On Nov. 10, commissioners heard about all the improvements being made at Hurley Park in Pass-A-Grille, on Gulf Way between 15th and 16th avenues, which included opening of a dog park at the north end of the facility.
Commissioner Melinda Pletcher, who represents the district, told fellow commissioners local residents of the area don’t want outsiders coming into Pass-A-Grille to use the Hurley dog park while they relax on beach.
“We are going to have to watch that pretty hard, because we obviously don’t want another attraction in Pass-A-Grille. I mean, we’ve got enough,” Pletcher said.
However, Hurley Park is touted to tourists as a great family attraction by county and local groups, as well as travel websites designed to attract visitors.
For example, the Visit St. Pete-Clearwater website touts Hurley Park, stating, “This historic 3.5-acre park located in Pass-a-Grille has something for everyone. Playground for the kids, a ball field, lighted basketball and tennis courts for sports enthusiasts and a picnic pavilion for those enjoying a little down time.”
Pletcher told commissioners the dog park should not become another feature to attract outsiders.
“One of the thoughts we had was can we have (the dog park) so it’s only for residents of St. Pete Beach, if it turns into too much,” she said. “Or can we start it off that way, because obviously we don’t want people bringing their dog and letting them play in the park, while they go to the beach.”
Pletcher said she saved an Instagram post where the city’s so-called little dog beach in Pass-A-Grille was named third-best dog beach in Pinellas County.
“I saved it and it was killing me,” she said. “It’s an internet sensation promoted on here. We just can’t be everything to everybody all the time, without it taking its toll.”
Mayor Al Johnson said, “There are certain things we don’t want to be.”
City Manager Alex Rey noted it’s easy to install a lock on the gate so the dog park is accessed with a card. Obtaining an entry card could require proof of residency.
“We’ll keep monitoring it, but it’s not difficult to do,” Rey said. “Other cities charge a nominal fee. You register your dog and get a card assigned to it, so it would be almost like a parking pass.”
Commissioner Ward Friszolowski noted the commission might want to wait and see if it’s needed, adding it’s “one more hassle” for residents to have to get a card.
Rey told commissioners, “We will work on the mechanics and be ready to pull the trigger right away.”
Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer McMahon told commissioners the rest of Hurley Park is being refurbished with state-of-the-art lightning of its sports facilities that prevents glare form reflecting off the property.
Commissioners on Nov. 10 unanimously approved paying Musco Lighting $103,582 to replace conventional-style fixtures with LED lightning on the tennis and basketball courts.
McMahon explained the softball field lighting was replaced as part of Phase I of the Hurley Park project. The lighting was a huge improvement, and as an added plus, does not affect the turtle nesting season.
Rey told commissioners, “We’ve already done the ball fields; if anyone has driven by the park the ball fields are looking really, really beautiful. The bathrooms are finally finished; the doors have been put on, so now you have working bathrooms with doors.
“We still have, after this, a couple of other improvements that are coming to you,” Rey said. “We are doing the picnic shelter at the park and we are looking at putting in a sidewalk or trail around the park. Those things are going to the historic preservation board for review and approval” before being brought to the commission.
He noted the city is still under the $600,000 allocation budgeted for the park, which is about $2 million less than a consultant said it would take to refurbish the facility.