Dog Day Afternoon besieges Bayfront Park

Editor & Publisher

The aging Bayfront Park Recreation Center overflowed with residents Thursday afternoon as the town requested and received a myriad of opinions and reactions to a proposed expansion plan that will redevelop the entirety of the site.

Earlier in the week, the town awarded a contract to Wannemacher Jensen Architects for planning and designing the final park after that firm beat out four others in a town ranking.

The public meeting was intended to allow interested residents and taxpayers an opportunity to help Town Manager Dave Bullock, staff and ultimately the Town Commission make some final decisions that could affect the plan as it is developed by the architectural firm.


Paws in, footprint out…

In the current and operating plan that was presented, a dog park is shown and a majority of residents at the meeting supported the initiative. The proposed paw park would be the only location on Longboat Key allowing dogs to publicly frolic without a leash.

Currently absent from the plan is a dedicated footprint where a future recreation center could be built. Previous iterations of the plan depicted a recreation and community center, but the latest draft shows a tennis court and pickle ball court in its place and Bullock has stated that if and when the commission decides it wants a structure on the site, nothing will be built that cannot be easily moved or modified.

The town distributed comment sheets at the meeting, and in a true show of public participation more than 56 interested attendees let their opinion be known.

For resident Gene Jaleski, there is no proven need for another large building at Bayfront Park. He commented that, “The best possible use would be a world class water park for residents only.”

Two residents, Jorge Reynardus and Patricia Buttonhelm, both said they would pay a rental fee to be able to store a kayak on site, would use a dog park, and would like to see a snack bar or food truck at Bayfront Park as well.

A vast majority of the attendees were in favor of a paw park. In fact, of the 56 returned comment forms, 48 said they would use a dog park.

Resident William Tow said that he would not use a dog park, but he might approve of one if it was sectioned away from other activities.

For resident Deb White, it was a question of not if, but when.

“Why is everyone still just talking about a dog park? We have been talking for how many decades now?” White asked rhetorically.

Resident Barbara Rowe said the inclusion of a ball field and basketball courts is questionable.

“In all the time I’ve been at the park to play tennis or attend fitness classes, I’ve not once seen the ball park in use. Not once! Nor have I seen much use made of the basketball courts…why include a mangrove interpretive walk when Durante Park, Selby Gardens, and Coquina Beaches Baywalk already provide similar options?” asked Rowe.

Several of the commenters urged the commission to simply ‘get going’ on the plan as soon as possible. Others said the land is “an invaluable asset; let’s maximize its usage.”

Resident Madelyn Spoll commented that the dog park would be better to locate in Durante Park and implored the commission to create a recreational park that would be a benefit for all of the Key.

For Gail Jordan, the issue of having a dog park is one of a meaningful psychological substitution.

“Our dogs deserve a play area, too. There are those of us who were either blessed or cursed not to have two legged children, and we have four-legged substitutes who play a vital role in our lives. They deserve an area to socialize with other dogs,” said Jordan.

Former Commissioner Dave Brenner said he would not use a dog park, and suggested that the town replace the existing recreation center building with a pavilion type of structure.

Commissioner Pat Zunz commented that the town should put the dog park in Durante Park and that a future recreation center building could be erected either on the site of the current one or on the bay side of the park.

The above comments will all become part of the record, and according to Assistant Town Manager Anne Ross, the town commission will be presented with the park redevelopment plan in November or December for final input before the hired Planning and Design Architects complete their services and create a final plan to go to bid.

Ross said the town could go to bid in Spring 2015 or early Summer 2015 with construction beginning Summer or Fall of next year, depending on what changes the commission desires.

As far as replacing the recreation center building, that can be another phase after the park is built and its design and development could easily be incorporated down the road according to staff.

Money to pay for the park improvements will primarily come from The Town Park and Open Space Fund, which has money paid in by commercial development projects by ordinace to offset the impact of commercial development. The Hilton-site owners, Ocean Properties will soon be paying a little more than $2 million into the open space acquisition and development fund.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Longboat Key News

Leave a Reply