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Council OKs neighborhood parks plans

By Staff | Dec 4, 2019

During its regular meeting at City Hall on Monday, the Cape Coral City Council approved the plans for the city’s neighborhood parks.

But it wasn’t without controversy, especially for those in the Northwest Cape who contended they weren’t notified of the last-minute changes made to its neighborhood park that could allow for a non-profit kayaking club to move in.

Some residents complained that the plan for Tropicana Park was not made available to the public until just before the meeting, and that the changes made did not meet with the plan residents thought they would get when it was discussed a few month ago.

It was all part of resolution to approve the revised concept plans for the neighborhood parks in the city, many of which were accepted by residents without incident.

Even the plans for Sands Park, which had the most vocal opponents, seemed to satisfy those residents in attendance. The plan to place the potential noisy elements in the center and the addition of buffering resulted in no protests.

But at Tropicana, the last-minute appearance of a proposed kayak club being able to lease property and hold training and lessons at the park resulted in protests by residents.

Previous renderings did not show a kayaking club, which, along with the plan for a smaller beach area, had residents up in arms.

Kerry Runyon, Cape Coral Parks & Recreation director, assured them during the break that the kayaking club was set in modeling clay and not in stone, and that such a plan was not guaranteed.

The question: Why put it in the plan if the idea was to put the club there? That’s the question Carolyn Jones had, as she saw the potential P3, with a private company taking over some public land.

“There seems to be a hidden agenda I can’t quite get to the bottom of. The website had not been updated until I made several phone calls at 3:35 p.m. You had to dig through 571 pages to find it,” Jones said. “Also, one plan as the kayak club on there and another one doesn’t, so it’s a little contradictory.”

John Bashaw, president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, said he loves the parks plan overall and also likes the kayaking club, but said there wasn’t the transparency he would have liked.

“The parks program is a good thing for the city and we’re fortunate to put these amenities in the city. But they need to be done right, and that takes citizen input through the entire process,” Bashaw said. “The issue is private property being incorporated into a public park. We did not see this plan at the meeting at Christa McAuliffe (Elementary School).”

Other concerns included safety and access as more boats come in, Bashaw said, especially if a major event is held.

Councilmember Rick Williams said the city could have done a better job showing the new renderings online in a timely manner, but that wouldn’t have changed his mind either way as the resolution passed unanimously, 7-0.

“We had a breakdown in communication. Nobody got together with us and vice-versa,” Williams said. “The vote was appropriate because there’s a time crunch with the clubs. They might have money with a grant, but they can’t get that money without a valid lease.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that residents in attendance at the meeting did not speak in opposition to the plans for Sands Park. The Southwest Cape Coral Action Committee continues to request changes to the plan as presented.