A weekend interview with ...
... Pasco School Board vice chairwoman Kathryn Starkey. Elected in 2004, Starkey has served on several boards and organizations, including the county's ordinance review committee and the state Greenways and Trails Council. Married to a prominent local developer, she pays a lot of attention to growth and land use issues. She talked to the Gradebook about the need to better use public lands.
"Public schools are owned by the taxpayers. Most people I know grew up playing on their school yards. These days we lock up those school yards the minute that school is out and all through the weekend. And the public has no access anymore, especially to the green space. That is what concerns me the most. So one of my goals is to find a way for the Pasco County school district and the county government to learn to work together better to make better use of the public's money and their investment in infrastructure.
I have been gathering information on how other districts co-use their green space around their schools. And many places have agreements with their government. For example, when school is out, half an hour after school is out the playgrounds and the play fields revert to county park use, and the county parks and rec picks up the liability during the nights and weekends. To me that's just a great use of public dollars. You don't have to go around duplicating public parks all over the place. We have public parks. The green space around schools needs to be treated differently.
We did some work with Connerton and we co-located a future county park with two future school sites. But we haven't worked it all the way through yet, how it's going to work. What I was trying to do the other day in the school district was to formalize our policy and work towards joint policy making with the county government to better use the facilities for everybody. Connerton is easier because it's a new site. But we have a lot of existing sites, schools, all around the county, where I would like to one day do an inventory and see how can those schools and the green space around it be better used for the community.
We have some land at Lacoochee that we're looking at maybe doing some sort of joint use with the parks department. And there's some other land up in Hudson that I think would be suitable for park space. ... That is land that is just sitting there. We're not even using it for a playground.
It's being done in other counties. In some counties the parks and rec department has come in and made improvements on school district land. It just makes great sense to me to better use that space. ... We have in our comp plan for colocation ideas where the county should look to share facilities with parks and libraries. But we haven't done it yet. Opportunities are slipping by while we're still playing around, and I'd like to move faster on it."