SAFETY HARBOR — Madison Lincon flashed an ear-to-ear grin Friday afternoon as her parents rocked her on the dragonfly teeter-totter.
The 11-month-old has become a regular at the newly opened Mullet Creek Park, a five-year project that cost nearly $423,000.
"We make it here probably four times a week, usually after trips to the library," said Madison's mother, Judy Lincon, 38. "It's the thing to do for moms who stay at home."
The 2.6-acre park features public artwork, a nature-themed playground and 10 garden plots with Florida-friendly landscaping.
"This whole patch used to be a wasteland, just completely overgrown, but now it's a major asset to the community," said Madison's dad, Michael Lincon, 41.
The park, at the corner of Church Street and Philippe Parkway north of the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, had been vacant for more than 25 years, according to Matt McLachlan, the city's community development director.
"We're really pleased with the outcome, considering our budget limitations. Creating a neighborhood park is a challenge, especially one with so many amenities," he said.
The Safety Harbor Community Redevelopment Agency covered 66 percent of the cost of the project, while a county block grant paid for the remaining $150,000.
Community planner Ana Mena led the design team. She created a plan that emphasized both landscaping and artwork.
"We have a strong arts community and I wanted to find a way to capture that," said Mena, who graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in landscape architecture.
The city's Public Art Committee last year accepted submissions for art to display in the park. Selected art will stay in the park for a year until the committee replaces it with new submissions. The park currently has paintings, sculptures and several mosaics.
The town dedicated the park to former Commissioner Nadine Nickeson, who retired in 2009 after 12 years.
"I was speechless, absolutely speechless," she said.
City Manager Matt Spoor said he couldn't think of a Safety Harbor resident more worthy.
"There isn't a volunteer opportunity in this city she's not a part of . . . Garden Club, the library, you name it. And that made the decision easy," he said.
In May, Safety Harbor submitted information about the new park for a competition by the Florida chapter of the American Planning Association. Winners will be announced in September.
"Ultimately, this place is perfect for kids and old folks alike. It's what we've been waiting for," Michael Lincon said.
Matt McKinney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4156.