About 50 residents came to talk about safety and improvements for Crest Lake Park at the Skycrest Neighbors Association meeting Tuesday.
Residents challenged themselves to come up with 30 days of events to have in Crest Lake Park as a way to invite people back to the public space.
But opening the bathrooms and getting better lighting for the park dominated the more than an hour-and-a-half long neighbors meeting.
JoAnna Siskin, president of the Skycrest Neighbors Association, said the meetings normally do not have so many participants or go so long.
But the meetings usually don't have four members of Clearwater Police, including Chief Anthony Holloway, in attendance. They were there to hear residents' thoughts and answer questions about safety in the wake of the Jan. 6 stabbing of Jason Paul.
After hearing about the success of the Farmers Almanac sale to help the Skycrest Community Garden — they raised $249 — neighbors heard from police.
Officers talked about the importance of the bathroom closing as part of the city’s overall strategy to move homeless people from the streets to social services.
“I think the bathrooms closed played a vital role in the homeless initiatives,” Major Dan Slaughter said. “It’s a long-term strategy. It's not to run them out of the park. It's to get them into service."
Homeowners who live near the park said they noticed the decrease of homeless activity in the park since the bathrooms closed.
Slaughter also said that police patrol the park, frequenting it on average three times a day. Officers talked about other programs available to residents to help them meet their neighbors and become more involved through volunteer police efforts in the neighborhood and Crest Lake Park.
“There is a lot of discussion about the park and where it is going long term,” Slaughter said.
Those discussions include major changes to the park, but they would not come for years, officials have said.
Sign up for the free Clearwater Patch email newsletter to read more stories about the issues that matter to your community.
Siskin said city officials explained the bathroom closing is due to concerns about both the budget and the homeless. In the short term, some homeowners said they could take over cleaning and closing duties of the bathrooms in an effort to reopen them.
“If this city can spend $150,000 to redo bathrooms on the beach and spend $120,000 to put a fence up around the library, surely they can spend $5,000 to clean those bathrooms” Siskin said.
Some neighbors do not mind the bathroom closure. However, it might be curbing use of the park by tourists and groups from outside Clearwater.
Carl Schrader, president of the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition, made a 30-day challenge to spend at least an hour a day in the park.
He shared some of his finding from his first few days walking and talking to park users.
Schrader said many tourists use the park. The Tampa Bay Chihuahua Club tried out the Doggie Days dog park. Members drove from Wesley Chapel and Tampa. They came to a welcoming park for their dogs, they said to him, but they had nowhere to go because the bathrooms are welded shut.
Schrader said the next neigborhood association meeting is Feb. 4. He encouraged residents to prove that they should fight for changes like opening the bathrooms at Crest Lake Park.
“This is something that can draw Clearwater together,” Schrader said.
In an effort to draw more people to the park, Skycrest residents also challenged themselves to develop a plan to bring more people to the park. The 30 days of events at Crest Lake Park include ideas like a neighbor gathering night, spoken word performances, sidewalk chalk art and a candlelight vigil.
But if the group is able to get the 30 days of events going they would have to pay to bring in portolets.
- How Can Crest Lake Park Be Improved?
- What Are Your Ideas for Fun at Crest Lake Park?
- Stabbing Sparks Question of Safety at Crest Lake Park
- What Clearwater's Saying: Safety at Crest Lake Park