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Cape Christian Fellowship breaks ground for park

By Staff | Mar 31, 2012

Cape Christian Fellowship broke ground Thursday on the first phase of its new 100,000-square-foot park, which will house playgrounds, multi-purpose fields and an amphitheater.

Phase one of Fellowship Park, which is expected to be completed within two weeks for Easter, includes the construction of a sunken fountain, courtyard and outdoor seating, installation of pavers and complete landscape remodel.

“This is a special day in the life of our congregation,” the Rev. Dennis Gingerich, founding pastor of Cape Christian, said at the ceremony.

He said the park will serve the community and local families.

Once it is finished, Fellowship Park will consist of multiple children’s playgrounds, sports and multi-purpose fields, an amphitheater, a zip line, jogging trail, splash pad and pavilion, and covered seating with a cafe.

Last year, the church shifted its focus from building a $15 million worship auditorium to building the park to address the needs of the community.

The Rev. Wess Furlong, lead pastor of Cape Christian, explained that the auditorium would have served the community to an extent, while the park will provide space for public use on a daily basis, and even city use for events.

“It’s just going to be a great place for gatherings,” he said.

According to interim City Manager Steve Pohlman, Fellowship Park will serve as a “neighborhood park” as long as it is open to the public. When officials review the city’s master plan, Fellowship Park will be viewed as another Cape park.

As such, a city-owned park would not have to be built in the vicinity.

With more than 700 parking spaces, restroom facilities and lighting for night events planned, holding city-sponsored activities at the park is an option.

“It’s a true asset to our city,” Pohlman said.

Some, however, do not see the entire project as an asset.

Cape residents William and Suzette Tirelli, of 2120 S.W. 17th Ave., live directly behind the church. They and another couple in the neighborhood are circulating petitions to stop the building of the amphitheater at the park.

“There’s going to be nothing to stop the noise,” William Tirelli said, adding that parking for 700 vehicles and traffic during events are a concern.

He added that 4,000 to 5,000 are expected to enjoy the amphitheater.

“It’s just not a place to bring 5,000 people,” Suzette Tirelli said of what she and her husband consider a quiet peaceful neighborhood.

“We’re going to lose our quality of life here, and that’s what we came for,” William Tirelli added.

About 15 out of 30 petitions had been signed and returned by Thursday.

“The parks that we have built have received some of the same feedback,” Pohlman said of the positive and negative reactions from the public.

He compared the noise expected from Fellowship Park to match that of any city-owned park with sports fields or facilities, such as Jim Jeffers Park.

“The church is going to be sensitive to their impact on the neighbors,” Pohlman said, adding that statistics show parks raise property values.

Furlong noted that the amphitheater “is literally one little piece” of the entire project, and that there is no funding yet for it – phase three.

“No dollars have been raised,” he said. “That’s a separate piece.”

“Fellowship Park is being developed in stages,” Furlong added.

Asked if the church may consider leaving the amphitheater out of the final plans, he declined to comment, preferring to focus on phase one’s start.

Fellowship Park will be owned, operated and maintained by the church.

Cape Christian Fellowship is located at 2110 Chiquita Blvd.. S.

For more information, visit www.capechristian.com or call 772-5683.