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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Clearwater backs up on $440,000 Pier 60 playground



CLEARWATER -- After hearing from Clearwater Beach residents and hoteliers, Clearwater’s elected leaders are holding off on ordering a nearly $440,000 new playground for Pier 60 Park.

The playground is to feature an elaborate, $330,000 concrete play structure in the shape of a giant sand castle. A site plan shows that the sand castle would take the place of a row of palm trees in a grassy area just west of the Clearwater Beach Roundabout. It would be near Pier 60’s existing playground, which would remain in place.

City Council members were slated to approve this purchase at their meeting Thursday night, but they postponed the vote until their next public meeting on the evening of Wednesday, May 1.

It appears that only the city’s Parks and Recreation Department was pushing for the new playground in the heart of the beach’s tourist district. Beach residents complained that the playground came as a surprise to them. The City Council had been told that the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce supported the playground, but that turned out not to be the case.

“The Beach Chamber has not made a point of saying that they were in favor of this,” the chamber’s executive director, Darlene Kole, told the council. Some beach hotels and businesses like the idea of the playground, while others have concerns about its size and location. The Clearwater Beach Hilton just to the north of Pier 60 is especially concerned, she said.

A surprised City Council decided to take a step back.

“I’m a little surprised that we don’t have the buy-in I thought we had from the business community,” said Vice Mayor Paul Gibson. “These are all the wrong signs. Everybody should be lined up saying, 'What a great idea.’ But we can’t find anybody saying that except ourselves. So I’m not prepared to support this tonight.”

The council voted 4-1 to postpone the vote, with council member Doreen Hock-DiPolito opposed.

Hock-DiPolito disagreed with the beach chamber about whether the chamber supported the playground. She repeatedly noted that the chamber had once posted an image of the playground on its Facebook page with a supportive message. “I don’t understand why we’re going to back up,” she said.

[Last modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 4:24pm]


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