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City takes input on ‘neighborhood’ parks

By Staff | Sep 19, 2019

Turnout at the city of Cape Coral’s public input meetings on the design of its new neighborhood parks was mixed this week.

It was standing room only in the cafeteria at Oasis Middle School on Tuesday for the first of the sessions, with discussions there focusing on one park in particular, Sands Park.

Wednesday’s meeting at Diplomat Elementary School was much quieter and uneventful, with about three dozen attendees asking general questions and lending support to the city’s plans to construct seven new parks, each slightly customized to include what type of court amenities should be included at each.

Attending the round of sessions that concluded Thursday were city officials, along with city staff and AECOM, the group doing the design work and taking input from the community.

All seven neighborhood parks, to be funded as part of the city’s voter-approved $60 million Parks Master Plan, were discussed at each meeting.

“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,” said Keith Locklin, city recreation superintendent. “We’re hoping for confirmation we’re on the right track.”

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 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 planned 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 at Sands was positive.

John Stevens was with a group of pickleballers in support of putting as many of the courts in as possible citywide.

“It’s great to spread pickleball courts throughout the community into these neighborhood parks. The Camelot park 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.”

Wednesday’s meeting at Diplomat Elementary School had little controversy. The same topics were discussed by city officials

The new park locations 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 Navarra 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 final meeting was held Thursday at Christa McAuliffe Charter School.