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Council looks to find common ground on Tropicana Park

By Staff | May 19, 2020

The Cape Coral City Council believes it has found some common ground for the development of Tropicana Park.

Council decided at its workshop meeting Monday that the city will draw up a Priority Use Agreement with the Cape Coral Rowing Club to allow it to use a portion of the park, while moving a proposed splash pad to nearby Joe Stonis Park.

Michael Ilczyszyn, senior manager for Public Works, brought forward a new concept discussed by Council last week in hope of reaching a compromise development plan that would allow space for the rowing club while also offering more green space and beach to appease residents who were upset about the club having earmarked space at the public park to be developed as part of the city’s $60 million Parks Master Plan.

Public input on the proposal again nearly took up the entire one-hour comment limit. More supporters of the rowing club made their voices heard, especially during the e-mailed comments.

Also included was a video made by northwest Cape residents who wanted to see the splash pad, which was removed from the park design last week, remain at Tropicana, although, perhaps in a smaller form.

Ilczyszyn said that during the initial survey on the park amenities, a splash pad was not high up on the list of priorities, placing eighth, while a canoe and kayak launch was second only to restrooms. Ultimately, residents wanted to see the city activate the waterfront areas.

Currently, only Cape Christian, a church, has a splash pad on its playground. Moving the city pad to Stonis Park, which a larger and already developed park, would allow for the space to build a bigger pad while pleasing the northwest residents, proponents of the move said.

There still was some concern about the new concept.

While the design provides for an extended launching dock (an extra 60 feet which the rowing club is expected to help pay for) and beach area, the parking lot seemed to have expanded and there was no sidewalk from the parking lot to the launch dock.

Councilmemnber John Gunter asked why the city can’t build a smaller splash pad. Ilczyszyn said that the first one needed to be big enough and that a splash pad half the size doesn’t mean its half the cost.

Gunter also had pictures taken of the old Caloosa Rowing Club which showed where the boats would be stored and the general condition of its area, which was a little bit in disarray and featured a trailer.

“I want to ensure the facility is neatly kept and there should be buffering installed at their expense,” Gunter said in regards to a fence. “The public doesn’t have to look at that.”

City Manager John Szerlag said he could have an PUA drawn up for approval by Council within the next few weeks and the formal plan for Tropicana Park in time for Council’s June 1 regular meeting.

In other business:

* Council discussed adding a security gate to the council parking lot at city hall. The fencing, which would cost between $69,000 and $92,000 to install, was seen as more of a want than a need by the majority of the council, but the board added they could revisit the topic at a later date.

* Council also discussed the phased reopening of all city parks and facilities. Among the big decisions they made was to cancel the annual Red, White & Boom celebration on July 4, moving it to Sept. 5, in conjunction with the city’s 50th anniversary.

Mayor Joe Coviello said the city should follow what the county decides should it decide to move to Phase II reopening before the city’s next Council meeting.