In 2020, the city of Dunedin began converting Stirling Links Golf Course into a community park. The park features a driving range and walking/biking trails.

DUNEDIN — Deciding on the future of several acres of city-owned land on the north end of town hasn't been a walk in the park.

Over the past few months, city commissioners and staff have gotten an earful from residents who live near the 27-acre Stirling Park at 620 Park Blvd.

In response to a resident of area who inquired at the City Commission meeting April 20 about the status of plans for the park, Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said city officials don't know what the target date is for staff to make a recommendation.

At previous meetings and through emails, city officials have heard many comments about improvements being considered. Several residents of the area have spoken out against having a dog park and pickleball courts as potential uses.

"We also have pickleball lovers that are dying to know when they can start getting built," Bujalski said. "They're getting frustrated. So it's not just this group. I also want to say I promise you from the bottom of all of our hearts, we are not going to come and make a decision, have a quick meeting, without you. So you don't have to worry. You really don't. We will make sure everybody knows that meeting's going to occur, and you will have a voice at that meeting."

Roby Whelpley, who lives on Yale Avenue, asked if the city is investigating the possibility to bringing back a par three golf course, saying it could be a revenue generator.

"Could we all just agree that pickleball and dog park are inappropriate for this location?" he said.

Whelpley noted there are projects planned in his area, such as the renovation of the Highlander Aquatic Center and the Dunedin Golf Club.

"The Toronto Blue Jays hotel is just around the corner," he said. "There are lots a things going on in that neighborhood. Let's keep it green in Stirling Park."

Bujalski said she has not seen the staff's recommendations on pickleball courts but knows that staff is working on it. 

"I would like to let our city manager do our normal process," Bujalski said.

City Manager Jennifer Bramley said it's important to note that when staff makes its recommendation for the City Commission, it's going to be comprehensive.

"Everybody needs to calm down," Bramley said. "We are going to do all of our research and then make a professional and technical recommendation for the good of the community to the City Commission.”

The information the neighborhood is providing will be presented to city commissioners all at once, not "bit by bit," Bramley said, though adding that residents are within their rights to email commissioners incrementally.

"it's going to be a process, and we are actually though working on this process," she said.

At a meeting on the Stirling Park master plan in January, city officials discussed possible recreational opportunities for 5.5 acres to a large audience.

Some of the amenities that have been suggested recently and over the past two years for the 5.5 acres  have been pickleball courts, a dog park, green space, playground, sports fields, disc golf, archery range or restoring the par 3 golf course.

The two parks and recreation facilities that the city has the highest need for are dedicated pickleball courts and a dog park on city property, Parks and Recreation Director Vince Gizzi said at that meeting.