SEMINOLE — After years of planning and discussions, the key elements of Waterfront Park are finally coming to fruition.
One of the most anticipated features took a leap forward Aug. 25 when the City Council unanimously approved a contract of up to $750,000 with Playmore Recreational Products and Services to construct an all-abilities playground.
The city was awarded a $250,000 grant from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program for the playground at the park, which is along Park Boulevard next to Home Depot.
The city will have to match the $250,000 and has also allocated an additional $250,000 from its Penny for Pinellas sales tax funds for the project.
After viewing a 360-degree video of what the half-acre playground will look like, councilors unanimously praised the design.
Councilor Trish Springer, who was on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board when discussions first began about the park about eight years ago, said she was impressed by city staff’s determination to bring the project to fruition and with the same price tag.
“This is more phenomenal than what you had ever envisioned,” said Springer, speaking to Recreation Director Becky Gunter.
“I just can’t believe the vision is still there and under that dollar amount seven years later. And the kids are going to love it, and the adults.”
The playground will be fully accessible to those in wheelchairs and mobility devices, as well as have components incorporating imaginative and sensory play.
“We are looking to incorporate elements such as bridges, ramps, spinners, slides and other playground equipment to create a unique theme park-like experience,” according to the city’s request for proposal.
Of the 11 proposals the city received, officials said Playmore of Fort Myers delivered the best package and said it would take 13 weeks to construct.
City leaders did have a couple of concerns, however,
Councilor Roger Edelman said the $750,000 continues to give him pause.
“I still look at the numbers and … I still get a little choke in my throat with all the numbers that we’re spending down there,” he said. “But I think it looks great.”
He also inquired whether staff considered adding a splash pad.
Gunter said she would advise against it, citing health concerns, logistics and expense.
“There’s a lot of issues with those,” she said. “I know Dunedin has seen a lot of issues as well as outbreaks from those or sicknesses come from those.”
Vice Mayor Chris Burke said he was also concerned about the heat’s effect on youngsters.
Gunter said the plan does incorporate some shading into the design and the city will add some landscaping and palm trees as well.
Burke recommended using large water misters, and Gunter said staff would explore the idea.
Edelman also questioned whether the park offered enough parking.
Public Works Director Rodney Due said he shared the concern, but said the city would have to wait and see what kind of crowds the new attractions draw.
City Manager Ann Toney-Deal added that the grass area at the corner of the park between Home Depot and Park Boulevard could be used for parking if necessary.
Other pieces of the park, including restrooms and an observation boardwalk on Boca Ciega Bay at the southeast portion of the park, are also closing in on completion, Due said.
“Both the restrooms and, believe it or not, the boardwalk are supposed to be substantially complete by (Oct. 1),” he said.