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Hold steady
September 13, 2019

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With a study in hand that showed the city had fallen far below its own standards for recreational facilities per capita, the city of Cape Coral sold an ambitious $60 million parks master plan to voters last November.

If voters would agree to tax themselves just a bit more over the next 15 years so the city could obtain General Obligation Bond financing to pay for the plan, residents could make up the deficit in almost every recreation-related category from small "neighborhood" parks with things like playgrounds and basketball courts to community and regional parks with amenities like amphitheaters, sports fields, tennis and pickleball courts, centers geared towards seniors or youths, boat docks, boat ramps, trails and more.

Voters were told the money raised would provide the funds for a capital plan that would include seven new neighborhood parks, one new environmental park, three community parks and improvements for at least 19 existing parks.

Among the highlights? Substantive upgrades at the Yacht Club complex; a new lake-front beach in the north Cape to include, hopefully, a private-public partnership agreement for not only a Boathouse-type eatery but a cable park attraction for waterboard riders; and possibly, a small amphitheater of around 3,000 seats for "lighter performances" and city events.

Voters saw the value and approved the GO Bonds - and the plan tendered - with a 53.58 percent majority.

Property owners will begin paying back the bonds on next year's tax bill at a rate of about .33 mills, or about 33 cents per $1,000 of taxable assessed valuation.

And next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the public is going to be able to weigh in again on the details as to what they want in each particular neighborhood park the city plans to open in 2021. Those parks are:

* Crystal Lake Park at Caloosa Parkway & Northwest 43rd Avenue. Budget: $3.19 million.

* Cultural Park -- Cultural Park Boulevard. Budget: $4.51 million.

* Gator Circle Park -- Garden Boulevard & De Navarra Parkway. Budget: $2.57 million.

* Lake Meade Park -- Northeast 12th Avenue off of Kismet Parkway. Budget: $4.09 million.

* Oasis Woods Park -- Oasis Boulevard & Southwest 38th Terrace Budget $2.43 million.

* Sands Park -- Sands Boulevard. Budget: $3.86 million.

* Tropicana Park -- Tropicana Parkway west. Budget: $2.93 million

The meetings to be held Sept. 17, 18 and 19 will run from 6-8 p.m. each evening, Tuesday at Oasis Middle School, Wednesday at Diplomat Elementary and Thursday at Christa McAulliffe Charter School.

Playgrounds, paths, picnic and grilling areas and shelters, fitness stations, open space, restrooms and outdoor courts of some kind will be among the proposed "core" amenities proposed in the template patterned after the Joe Stonis Park.

We encourage the Cape residents and taxpayers to attend: These are your parks and you will be paying for them.

But we do have one caveat.

Much as we endorse public input - and make no mistake, we do here - we stress that it was public input that got us here.

Public input at multiple meetings over multiple years as the facilities plan was drafted and finalized.

Public input- and endorsement - at the ballot box.

Just as Council should not be looking to now feed these funds to the maws of pet projects not in the plan or in areas of defined need, residents should not be looking to gut plans in "their" neighborhood because, heaven forbid, people may actually want to use those parks and playgrounds.

These input sessions should focus on tweaks, not demands for "green space," which would not meet the recreational needs voters were told existed.

Many thought the hard part was to get the plan passed.

We venture it may be harder yet to hold steady.

We urge Council - and the public - to stay on track.

The parks master plan is both a catch up and long-vision look at the city we want to be.

Let's not lose sight of that now.

- Breeze editorial

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