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Residents Respond to Waterfront Park Proposals

A trio of conceptual plans presented at a public meeting on Saturday drew a range of responses.

It’s common knowledge that the residents of Safety Harbor are passionate about their community. 

It’s also pretty much accepted that the city, and its leaders, need to look at ways to bring new revenue streams into town as a way to bolster the economy. 

So when city leaders and residents gathered for a public meeting on the waterfront park issue at the Safety Harbor Public Library Saturday, it’s no surprise that opinions varied as to what, if anything, should be done with the property. 

“The goal here is to ask questions and tell us what you like and don’t like about the three concepts,” Community Development Director Matt McLachlan told the gathered crowd. 

“We know there’s no shortage of opinions,” he added. “Our goal is to submit a preferred alternative to the city commission.” 

McLachlan was right about no shortage of opinions, as each of the three plans seemed to contain at least one aspect that rubbed people the wrong way, including relocating the boat launch, constructing boardwalks along the water’s edge and putting large commercial buildings at the entrance to the park.

“I have a great problem with talking about buildings when it’s unspecified what it’s going to be, local architect and builder Bob Diaz said. “I need to know. It’s good common sense.” 

“Where is the money for the buildings going to come from?” Chip Thomas added. 

While McLachlan admitted there were no firm plans for the buildings as of right now, other issues struck a nerve with residents as well. 

“If you put an observation deck out there as Plan 2 calls for, you wouldn’t really be able to see anything,” Rob Hoskins said. “And the area for the proposed kayak launch is shallow, anything you put out there is not going to work.” 

“What if we don’t like any three of the concepts?” local artist and activist Terrie Dahl Thomas asked. “Why are we given only three choices?” 

But not everybody was down on the proposals, or the city’s efforts to put the 13-acre piece of prime real estate behind the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa to good use. 

“I have likes and dislikes on all three of them,” longtime resident Jim Barge countered. “But tell them what you like and dislike about them, and they’ll probably come up with concepts four, five and six.” 

“This is just a start,” said Caryl Dennis.

Even residents who recently moved to town admitted they approved of how the city was going about the process.

“We’re new members of the community and we were very impressed with what the city has presented to us,” Skip Meadows, who moved to town from the Countryside area last week. 

“I didn’t get the feeling at all that this was cast in stone.” 

Indeed McLachlan stressed this was just one part of what could be a long process. 

“We are continuing the public input phase and then we will present the feedback to the steering committee. We need to see if any common themes emerge.” 

“It’s like a filter. We’re just narrowing it down until we find a common goal,” he added. “There will be many more opportunities for the public to weigh in. Nothing is set in stone.”

Detailed accounts for the three concepts for the waterfront park can be found here. The next schedule meeting for the park plans is the city commission meeting in December.

What do you think about the proposals for the waterfront park? Let us know in the comments below?

Harborite October 21, 2012 at 10:41 AM
Commercializing our Waterfront Park by squeezing in a restaurant will ruin the new park. There is already a lack of parking to accomodate all of the boaters, the kayakers, the fishermen, and the people who visit the pier. Then you have to consider all of the new visitors who will come to the new Waterfront Park to visit the beach and the many new attractions. A restaurant will also have hundreds of employees and patrons who will need to park there when the restaurant is open. Plus there will be delivery and garbage trucks that will need to constantly be going in and out of there. Our new park will become a traffic nightmare requiring traffic lights to get in and out of this park. Add to this the traffic from South Bayshore which often backs up from Main Street past the entrance into the marina. A new restraurant will only ruin the small town feel that makes Safety Harbor so attractive to everyone who lives and visits here.
Robert Saltzman October 21, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I agree Joe someone had said we need a good seafood restsurant in SH. They thought it might be a good idea to put one the new park. I think it was one of the suggestions from the public survey. Two things wrong with that, the Spa has a restaurant that would cut into their bottom line. Next is we just got a wonderful new seafood restaurant "The Nantucket Bucket" on 2nd St. S and 4th Ave S.
Harborite October 21, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Robert, I feel that we have plenty of restaurants already in Safety Harbor. With the recent addition of Nantucket Bucket, we don't need another new seafood restaurant in our Waterfront Park to compete with them. Commercial businesses need to stay in our commercial districts along Main St., 2nd St. N and 2nd St. S. Our parks need to remain parks without commercial intrusions. Our Waterfront Park needs to represent our small town values. It would be a big mistake for our small quaint City to commercialize our beautiful new Waterfront Park.
Gisela Bennie December 22, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Terrie, I completely agree with your comments.
Gisela Bennie December 22, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Carol - Very good ideas. i agree with you.

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