ST. PETE BEACH – Improvements are slated at Upham Beach, McKenney and Vina Del Mar parks.

During their meeting Nov. 27, city commissioners unanimously approved a $68,000 engineering services contract with CPWG to produce design and construction documents that will lead to an upgrade of the Upham Beach parking area.

Scope of services includes engineering, surveying and mapping services for parking area design, landscape design, and an engineering cost estimate for parking area realignment from 67th Avenue to 71st Avenue off Gulf Boulevard.

The Upham Beach parking area includes restrooms, an outdoor shower, and four wooden dune walkways leading from the parking area to the beach.

City Manager Wayne Saunders noted during summer budget hearings “one of the projects that was included was basically a complete redesign and rebuilding of the Upham Beach parking area to make it more attractive, make it more efficient, and add parking.”

At their recent meeting, commissioners only approved a plan to design the project. Construction plans, which will include whether to undertake improvements in stages, will be approved at a later meeting.

Saunders said the city asked that CPWG develop conceptual designs for the Upham Beach parking area to improve the existing parking layout, the landscaping, hardscaping and the overall experience of residents and guests who frequently visit the area.

Mayor Al Johnson noted commissioners have seen a couple of different layouts for Upham Beach parking redesign.

The city manager said plans will be designed so that the project can be completed in two phases, with a second phase including the addition of 67 parking spaces and a traffic redesign. “When the project is bidded out, the commission can decide whether they want to do one or two phases,” he added.

Johnson said the second phase may include more parking spaces will be added but travel lanes will be narrowed, permitting only one way traffic on each side of the median; the current traffic design permits two-way traffic on one side and one way on the west side.

The city manager agreed there are traffic changes in the overall parking plan.

Commissioner Rick Falkenstein said it looks like the redesigned traffic circle will provide an easier exit for motorists at the north end of the park.

Commissioner Melinda Pletcher said “this is a fabulous project.”

Pletcher wanted to make sure that the cost of area sewer improvements will not impact the Upham Beach Park improvements.

“I just don’t like to spend money if we are not going to be actually able to do it,” she said.

The city manager advised funding for Upham Beach improvements will come from the general fund, while sanitary sewer upgrades are capital projects.

Saunders advised that “once engineering is done you can wait a year, you can wait two years or three years, if the funding isn’t in place to do it.”

Commissioner Ward Friszolowski agreed.

“Once we authorize a design they’ll come back with options; even if we choose to do the smaller option, they will have done design work with the addition of parking that could be added sometime in the future,” he said.

“We can wait three years or five years if we feel uneasy about the spending money,” Friszolowski added.

Mayor Johnson agreed.

“The design will be done and we can always implement it later,” he said.

Pletcher said the beach improvement project will “beautify our city, which is absolutely critical,” and the additional parking will increase revenue to the city.

Commissioner Terri Finnerty said improvements at the Upham parking area is especially needed since “that area is so worn down.”

Pletcher agreed, saying “it’s very tired.”

In another project, city commissioners also approved engineering services for restroom improvements at two other parks.

With budget limits not to exceed $20,000, CPWG will oversee design, construction management and inspection services for restroom renovation at 4.6-acre McKenney Park, 9300 Blind Pass Road, and 3.5-acre Vina Del Mar Park at 302 South Isle Drive.

McKenney Park, at Gulf Boulevard and 93rd Avenue, includes a children’s playground, picnic tables, a wooden pier dedicated to former Mayor Ron McKenney and fenced dog park. Vina Del Mar is a neighborhood park with a playground and lighted basketball and tennis courts.

According to the city manager, the city initially requested CPWG to provide design, construction management, and inspection duties as needed, for renovations to restroom facilities throughout the city. The next two restrooms to be renovated are facilities at McKenney Park, which will be done first, and then Vina Del Mar Park.

As part of this project, the firm will meet with contractors, review pay applications, and conduct general construction oversight during the renovations. CPWG will provide the city with a weekly progress report, including an anticipated two-week look ahead on major tasks.