Imagine one day walking to Coachman Park for a performance of Shakespeare in the Park.
Children can be heard laughing and playing in one of those fun and fancy interactive water fountains.
Other people are playing chess and checkers and ping pong. A couple is getting married under a pavilion overlooking Clearwater Bay.
All this might not be possible in one park, but Clearwater residents offered these and other ideas in the recently released Coachman Park Enhancement Survey created by the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition.
“I thought there was a lot of creative input,” said Shelley Kuroghlian, president of the neighborhood group. “People are looking for solutions to bring people into the area.”
More than 100 residents shared ideas and concerns over the future of Coachman Park through the online survey.
Voters thought dance, music and theater performances would be the best way to bring people to the park. Voters also offered ideas like ping pong, poetry, a petting zoo or a dog park.
The Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition created the online survey to poll the community on what it wants for the future of the park. Respondents, who’s names were kept anonymous, agreed that the park is under used, aside from the homeless and the occasional large crowd from outdoor events like Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Wild Splash and Clearwater Celebrates America.
And while the neighborhood group has taken no position on what it would like to see in the park, the Coachman Park Enhancement Committee is working on developing a plan to expand and enhance it, said Howard Warshauer, chairman of the group.
“The public knows that parks in order to be successful must satisfy a very diverse community with very diverse offerings both through physical and program elements,” Warshauer said.
The park property boundaries are Cleveland Street to the south and Drew Street to the north and from Osceola west to the water. Coachman Park was the old homestead of E.H. Coachman and Mary Mease until the site was sold to the city for the construction of the Carnegie Library in 1916 with the other part designated as a public park. A portion of the land was sold in the late 1950s to build the Maas Brothers department store. Which later became the Harborview Center.
Crews are set to reopen the Harborview Center as an attraction annex for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Nov. 1. The works well within the timeline for the Coachman Park Enhancement Committee but it has many questioning the future use of the once shuttered building that was planned for the wrecking ball.
Some survey respondents say that if the building stays they would like to see it reused as an art’s hub, something that has worked in other parts of the country and Pinellas county.
“If the city already owns the building, the space could be subdivided and rented to artists,” a respondent suggested. “The arts attract visitors who generally spend more than the ‘McDonald's’ crowd.”
One of the questions in the survey also asked what permanent structures residents would like as part of the park. More than 55 voters agreed that a band shell with an open area should be part of the plan. Voters also liked the idea of a tree canopy for beauty and shade, a multi-use pavilion for weddings and other events and an interactive water fountain for children.
Voters said the park should be able to be used by all ages to enjoy entertainment, exercise and relaxation.
“It is obvious that the public wants this discussion to take place and has a lot to say about what the park should look and feel like,” Warshauer said. “We will be very sensitive to public input as we move forward as this is their property and park.”
*article was updated at 11:35 a.m.