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Parks still bogged down by owls, kayak concerns

By Staff | Feb 11, 2020

Owls at Braden Park and Sands Park, a kayak facility at Tropicana Park — Cape Coral residents had a number of questions during citizens input at Monday’s City Council meeting.

The possibility of the “taking” of a burrowing owl nest at Bernice Braden Park near the Cape Coral Bridge where the city’s annual July 4 celebration is held had environmentalists up in arms, pleading with the city leave the nest allow.

Chris Specht was heard on video taking about the two owls, named Thurston and Lovey, also called Fire and Cracker, who live at the park. Specht asked the city to leave the issue until near the time of Red, White & BOOM! as the city did last year.

The park is usually where the kiddie park and the VIP tent is located.

The city wants to use its permit to get the owls out of the burrow so the city can collapse it. The city did the same thing last year, only to have the owls return and rebuild.

Another advocate, Don Epstein, said the city should be able to set up its tents around the burrows.

“That should be easily done. The owls bring in tourists, so keeping them here is common sense,” Epstein said.

City Council members had their own questions.

Councilmember Lois Welsh asked if the city could collapse the burrow just before the event and rebuild it afterwards or at least do a starter burrow.

Councilmember Marilyn Stout asked if the city could move the tent across the street.

Mike Ilczyszyn, Public Works supervisor for the parks, said the area near the river across the street is prone to flooding and is meant for spectators.

As for Sands Park, with its ability to provide more open space, it would seem easier for the city to accommodate the burrows.

Yolanda Olson, advocating for the owls, said that no research proves that any method to relocate the owls work, even starter burrows.

As for Tropicana Park, residents near the park continued to express their displeasure at the possibility of sharing the park with water sports organizations.

Kevin Black said there are 1,200 names on a petition that says the park would not be the safest location to allow the Caloosa Coast Rowing Club to locate its programs. The petitioners contend it would make the waterway very crowded.

Mayor Joe Coviello said the city might be able to solve the problem by leasing two city-owned parcels of property to the rowing club adjacent the proposed park. City Manager John Szerlag said he would look into it.

“Some of that property up there is associated with Seven Islands and there was another property that was associated with the RFP (requests for proposal) for a developer to look at that,” Coviello said. “We might be able to put the club next door to the park. We’re just waiting for the RFP to expire. They could issue a new RFP and put the club there and do a dollar a year lease.”

In other news:

n Council recognized Charles “Dave” Raborn as Fire Marshal of the Year by the Florida Fire Chiefs Association, and Mathew Marshall, Fire Battalion Chief, as the 2019 Hazmat Responder of the Year from the same group.

n Council split on a consent agenda item regarding the continuation of selling beer and wine at Sun Splash Family Waterpark in 2020.

Despite a net profit of $37,900 in 2019, Councilmember Jessica Cosden said she doesn’t support sales of alcohol at what is essentially a kids park. She got support from Welsh, but the motion to continue sales was approved 5-2. The number of allowable sales per adult customer was increased from two to three beverages.

n Council approved two new full-time members and two alternates for the Planning & Zoning Commission.

John Bashaw and Robert O’Connor were named full-time to the commission. Keith Long and William Gilbert were named alternates.