LARGO — The basketball courts are empty. The beach volleyball area is too, and the only action on the sports field comes from six ibis poking through the grass.
Ever since the city's summer camp program ended, there's been minimal activity at the city's Bayhead Complex, a small recreational facility on Seminole Boulevard south of Bay Drive.
But give it a few months. The Bayhead Complex is about to be reborn.
By combining tax dollars with a grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the city plans to make stormwater management improvements at Bayhead, and some recreational amenities will be part of the package.
City commissioners approved the project Aug. 21 and awarded the construction contract to Alexander W. Enterprises Inc. of Tampa. Within 30 days, work will begin on two new stormwater pumping stations, one in the pond at the southwest corner of the complex and the other in the pond south of West Bay Drive.
An asphalt recreational trail will be built to wrap around both ponds as well.
The two ponds were dug at the complex in 2000 to handle stormwater runoff for approximately 163 acres in the downtown area. The ponds have done a good job, city engineer Leland Dicus said. However, "the drains have reached the end of their useful life. They are not functioning properly and they will need to be replaced,'' he said.
Improving the drainage system and building the trail will cost $485,000.
In October, after the new budget year kicks in, Dicus hopes to spend an additional $214,000 to add swales, trees, wetland plants and other landscaping.
If the city completes the work by Dec. 31, 50 percent of the cost will be reimbursed by the water management district.
Commissioner Curtis Holmes questioned the need for a trail. But Carol Stricklin, Largo's community development director, sees the new trail as a great addition to downtown.
"We've got a significant open space downtown (at the Bayhead Complex) that is underutilized,'' she said. "We're leveraging a drainage project to create a downtown amenity."
In the coming months, the community will also see something else new at the complex. The parks department is about to install the city's skate park, formerly located at the Highland Recreation Complex, at Bayhead near the basketball court.
The skate park is being moved because it was located where the new Highland recreation complex is being built, said Greg Brown, superintendent of the city's parks.
Although it will have a different configuration than it did at Highland, the skate park will include most of the same equipment, he said.
"It's exciting to be taking advantage of so many different resources like this,'' he said.
The combination of a stormwater management facility with recreation amenities has been used in other communities.
"You can see how other cities have already created parks like we are doing with Bayhead," Brown said. "I think of (Glen Oaks Park) near downtown Clearwater where they've used the stormwater in the same way. It's really beautiful and has been a success.''
Piper Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4163.