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Sands hot topic at first parks open house

By Staff | Sep 18, 2019

It was standing room only in the cafeteria at Oasis Middle School on Tuesday as the city of Cape Coral held the first of three public input meetings on the design of the new neighborhood parks.

But it would be one park in particular that would take center stage, one that would sit not too far from the municipal charter school complex.

Mayor Joe Coviello was there along with city staff and AECOM, the group doing the design work and taking input from the community.

Keith Locklin, recreation superintendent for the city, said all seven neighborhood parks would be discussed at each meeting, meaning those who couldn’t make the Tuesday meeting still have opportunity to comment. The second meeting is tonight with the third set for Thursday.

“We have the original concept drawings and we have some brand-new renderings by an artist which gives a new perspective to the same concepts,” Locklin said. “We’re hoping for confirmation we’re on the right track.”

Each park will be designed with community interests in mind. Many of the future park designs, which are patterned after Joe Stonis Park on Ceitus Parkway off Burnt Store Road, will include playgrounds, multi-use paths, open spaces, picnic areas and shelters, fitness stations, restrooms, grilling areas, parking and outdoor courts.

That last amenity was one of the problems that residents close to the proposed Sands Park cited. They expressed concern that the pickleball courts, with the wooden paddles and Wiffle-type balls, would create too much noise.

“We don’t want pickleball or basketball courts at Sands Park. It is surrounded 100 percent by homes. It’s a big square and they’re going to put a park in the center,” said Lynn Hritz, whose home would be across the street from the proposed park. “Any noise in that park will ricochet. We are not against a park. I would prefer a walking park; take the Sands money and put it where there are more children.”

Others were worried that once the new-car smell wore off the new parks, they would become dilapidated and result in the loss of property values in an area where high-end homes sit.

“When the novelty wears off, it produces a way for people to mill about the park at all hours. That’s a safety concern,” said Patty Vero. “”I have snowbird friends who have other concerns so I wrote them down for them.”

Overall, the reception to the parks plan was positive. John Stevens, who was with a group of pickleballers in support of putting as many of the courts in as possible.

“It’s great to spread pickleball courts throughout the community into these neighborhood parks. The Camelot has two tennis courts that are used for pickleball,” Stevens said. “There are no complaints down there and it works very well. We’ll have two or three courts in each park. It won’t generate traffic or noise.”

Kate St. John said she thought the park was wonderful, but was more concerned about tennis than pickleball.

“My granddaughter plays tennis and she wants to play in college. Sometimes we have to wait two hours for a court,” St. John said. “These old people say there are no kids here. There are. We’re just trying to keep them off the street.”

The new parks, part of a voter-approved $60 million citywide Parks Master Plan, include:

* Crystal Lake Park — Caloosa Parkway & Northwest 43rd. Budget: $3.19 million. Anticipated opening: 2021

* Cultural Park — Cultural Park Boulevard. Budget: $4.51 million. Anticipated opening: 2021

* Gator Circle Park — Garden Boulevard & De Navrra Parkway. Budget: $2.57 million. Anticipated opening: 2021

* Lake Meade Park — Northeast 12th Avenue off of Kismet Parkway. Budget: $4.09 million. Anticipated opening: 2021

* Oasis Woods Park — Oasis Boulevard & Southwest 38th Terrace. Budget $2.43 million. Anticipated opening: 2021

* Sands Park — Sands Boulevard. Budget: $3.86 million Anticipated opening: 2021

* Tropicana Park — Tropicana Parkway west. Budget: $2.93 million Anticipated opening: 2021

The city will hold two more public input meetings, on Wednesday at Diplomat Elementary School and Thursday at Crista McAuliffe Charter School. Both meetings will run from 6 to 8 p.m.

Diplomat Elementary School is at 1115 N.E. 16th Terrace. Christa McAulliffe Charter School is at 2817 S.W. 3rd Lane.

Visit capecoral.net to submit your public input online.