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Tropicana Park lease proposals stir the waters

By Staff | Jan 2, 2020

Carolyn Jones and some of the other residents in northwest Cape Coral want the city to know that they aren’t in favor of leasing a portion of Tropicana Park to two clubs.

Jones created the petition, “Stop city from using Tropicana Park-Private use. Vote NO for using GO Bond Tax” on Change.org. The petition has close to 500 signatures.

The clubs that may lease at Tropicana Park are both member-based 501(3) nonprofits – the Caloosa Coast Rowing Club and the South Florida Canoe & Kayak Club. The leases would give each club 17,034 square feet of storage space. Both clubs have to move out of their current locations.

The lease agreements still have to receive Cape Coral City Council approval.

“If a lease is approved this will not preclude the public from using a ramp,” said city spokesperson Maureen Buice. “Additionally, the clubs are open to the public and provide parks and recreation programs that the city does not currently offer.”

Cape Coral’s GO Bond park projects were approved by voters in 2018. The projects will cost a total of $60 million in taxpayer dollars and will go toward improving existing parks and building new ones.

Three million dollars is being used to build Tropicana Park. The park is in the very beginning phase of construction. Where Tropicana Park will be located is currently just a massive dirt lot on the waterfront.

“When people voted for this GO Bond, they expected to be able to choose what was going in their parks,” Jones said. “We were initially supposed to have grills, a splash pad, and now we’re hearing that we may not get these things at all.”

According to Jones, neither club was brought up by City Council at the public input hearings about Tropicana Park.

“I have several concerns, but my main ones are with safety (on the water) and lack of transparency,” Jones said. “These discussions have been going on for months. I’m not quite sure why they weren’t putting the information out there.”

Northwest Cape resident John Karcher said that he feels like it was a bait and switch by council.

“They kept everything behind the scenes (regarding the clubs),” Karcher said. “It wasn’t mentioned at the public input hearings.”

However, Saundra Weston, a member on the board of directors at Caloosa Coast Rowing Club, said the clubs were shown as being possibilities on a poster board at the last two public input hearings in September.

“Rowing has grown so much as a sport, and it’s a really cool opportunity for kids that we want to keep in our community,” Weston said. “It can even lead to scholarships.”

Weston said that it’s commonplace for nonprofit clubs to operate out of public parks and cited the Rowing Association of Naples (RAN) which is located at Anthony Park.

“The only thing that we need to secure is our equipment everything else surrounding it will be public,” Weston said. “I would love to have a facility that is usable for the entire community that also just happens to store boats.”

Jones and other neighbors don’t want to compromise.

“To me, the only acceptable outcome is the design that was initially posted,” Jones said.

The birds-eye image on the city of Cape Coral’s website of the Tropicana Park Concept Plans shows the original proposed layout.

“Anyone who supports or opposes this lease is encouraged to provide input at the appropriate meeting when the lease is presented to council for approval,” Buice said.