St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster says he wants Williams Park to be a place for the city's professionals and families to enjoy. He believes consistent programming — such as luncheons, concerts and markets — eventually will make the lawbreakers too uncomfortable. The St. Petersburg Police Department has tried to make the park more palatable, spending an estimated $100,000 to $130,000 every year in patrol time. Parks officials devote one full-time and one part-time staffer to clean the park year round. That's $40,000 to $50,000 in annual wages.
David Barth is a park planning expert and principal at AECOM, a global consulting firm. He has studied hundreds of urban parks. He offered some potential solutions to Williams Park's problems:
• Bolster neighboring retail. Glass store fronts and cafes with sidewalk seating discourage law-breakers. "People watching people watching people," Barth explained.
• Remove the buses. They block views into the park from three sides, making it feel isolated and uninviting.
• Make the roads narrower and slower. Traffic moves fast around the park and the roads can be difficult to cross for pedestrians. Successful parks often border cobblestone roads with low speed limits.
"It's really easy to say," Barth said of the suggested changes. "It's really hard to do."
John Woodrow Cox, Times staff writer