Saturday, April 21, 2018
News Roundup

Clearwater parks: Go big or stay small?

CLEARWATER — As the summer season of scrutinizing the city's budget begins, City Council members have weighed in on a different type of green: parks.

Should the city continue along its decade-old path of lots of small neighborhood parks, or, like Largo has with Largo Central Park, focus on creating signature regional parks?

Clearwater has 109 parks, including mini-parks with a few benches and some shade. That's a lot to maintain and might not be the best bang for the buck, especially considering manpower and budget reductions over the past several years, said Kevin Dunbar, the city's parks and recreation director.

"Go to some of our neighborhood parks — you'll find them empty," Dunbar said.

But some of the city's larger recreational facilities — the Long Center, for instance — have their own challenges, said Bill Jonson, a council member who said he wants to maintain neighborhood parks that are within an easy walk for families across the city.

When he takes his young granddaughter to Long's huge playground, Jonson said, "It's kind of overwhelming."

Park culture has changed over the years, said Felicia Leonard, the department's administrative support manager. Small parks with a swing and a jungle gym are increasingly shunned for destination parks such as the Long Center. People are more willing to drive their kids to a park that will keep them busy for an extended period of time, she said.

At issue is the city's 2002 Parks and Recreation master plan. The department has a roughly $21 million budget and 207 employees. Halfway through the 20-year plan, Dunbar said, the city should take a look at which direction it wants to go.

Mayor George Cretekos wants to make Crest Lake Park a destination. Some things should be done right away: improving the entrance and sprucing up the grass and lighting, he said.

But residents are in for a surprise if Crest Lake becomes a busy regional park, said Vice Mayor Paul Gibson.

"It's not going to be a quiet neighborhood park. Once this genie is out of the bottle . . . they'll have to live with it," Gibson said.

Other ideas bounced around during the council's work session Friday included a bike-share program, community gardens and other "trending" cultural attractions that might draw more young urban professionals to the city — a consistently high item on the council's wish list.

The Parks and Recreation department plans a six-month outreach to city residents through community forums, mailings, online feedback and a stakeholder committee to find out what type of park system would be the best fit.

Administrators hope the results will be ready by the end of the year, Leonard said.

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago. To write a letter to the editor, visit the website tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Nikita Kucherov’s goal sets Lightning playoff series scoring record

Nikita Kucherov’s goal sets Lightning playoff series scoring record

TAMPA — After clinging to a 1-0 lead for more than two periods Saturday, the Lightning got a long-awaited cushion — and ultimately the winning goal — when Nikita Kucherov scored with 7:33 left in the final period of a 3-1 victo...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

The first time deputies arrested Samuel Morrissey Jr., he faced charges of possession of marijuana and carrying a concealed firearm. He plead no contest in September, and the judge gave him a break by withholding adjudication. Ten days later, the 20-...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning wins 3-1, advances to the semifinals

Lightning wins 3-1, advances to the semifinals

TAMPA — The Lightning closed out its quarterfinal series against the Devils with a suffocating defensive effort.The Devils finally solved Andrei Vasilevskiy in the waning moments with goalie Cory Schneider on the bench and the Devils skati...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Actor Verne Troyer, Mini-Me from ‘Austin Powers’ films, dead at 49

Actor Verne Troyer, Mini-Me from ‘Austin Powers’ films, dead at 49

LOS ANGELES — Actor Verne Troyer from the Austin Powers movie franchise has died. A statement provided by Troyer’s spokesperson that was also posted to his Instagram and Facebook accounts says the 49-year-old actor died Saturday. No cause or place of...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Woman dies in single-car crash on SR 580

Woman dies in single-car crash on SR 580

A 49-year-old woman died early Saturday in a single-car crash on State Road 580.The vehicle was driving in the eastbound lanes of SR 580 when it failed to round a curve and veered off the road near Charles Avenue, a Clearwater Police Department state...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Live blog: Lightning aims to eliminate Devils in Game 5

Live blog: Lightning aims to eliminate Devils in Game 5

Follow our live coverage of the opening-round NHL playoff series between the Lightning and New Jersey Devils. Times reporters, editors, sports columnists and photo journalists will chronicle the action on and off the ice through updates, analysis, ph...
Updated: 3 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

UPDATE, 4:17: CF Kevin Kiermaier was back at the Trop, and at one point on the field with a glove on his left hand and protective wrapping on his right, the day after surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right thumb. He said the surgery went "as good ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

The Rays have made it official – or as official as things can be with them – in naming RHP Yonny Chirinos as the fourth starter in their rotation.The Rays had been using three, and two "Bullpen Day" slots when playing five straight days.B...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Cops used dead man's finger in attempt to unlock his phone

Cops used dead man's finger in attempt to unlock his phone

Most people agree what the Largo detectives did at the funeral home was legal. What they diverge on is whether it was appropriate.
Updated: 6 hours ago