CLEARWATER — Dave Sobush came to City Hall because he hoped city leaders would replace the playground where his 2-year-old son loved to play.
After all, he asked, if the city planned to replace another playground in the North Greenwood neighborhood, couldn't it put a new one at the Countryside Library, too?
Probably not, was the feedback he received at Monday's city budget meeting.
And now that other playground at Cherry Harris Park may be at risk, too.
Why? Because city staffers revealed that the North Greenwood area has more playgrounds than city standards require. The standards, put in place about eight years ago, say there should be one playground within a mile of each home.
Mayor Frank Hibbard said it wasn't fair to limit playgrounds in some neighborhoods and not others.
"We either have a policy we follow uniformly or we don't," Hibbard said.
Just one council member, Vice Mayor John Doran, voiced opposition to that policy, saying a hard-and-fast 1-mile rule isn't always in the best interest of the city or specific neighborhoods.
Other factors, such as how many kids live there, should be considered. And sometimes, he said, the city should provide more recreational access in neighborhoods where children may have fewer opportunities.
"There are areas of Clearwater that have been the last to get and the first to give up and I don't think that's necessarily the right way to do things," said Doran, who believes North Greenwood is one of those areas.
The city plans to eliminate three playgrounds in North Greenwood within the next five years, said Art Kader, assistant director of parks and recreation. Including Cherry Harris, North Greenwood would have two playgrounds.
There were plans to replace it within the next six months, but after night's meeting those plans are in question.
"From a parks and recreation standpoint, we're not ever wanting to close anything down," Kader said. "But we also want to have a park system that is sustainable and you can only do that either by cutting the expenses you have or increasing revenue, and unfortunately playgrounds are an expensive item."
Some playgrounds were installed in neighborhoods without them. But over the past several years aging playgrounds in areas that have more than the quota weren't replaced.
Five years ago, the city had 34 playgrounds. Now it has 28. The playground at the Countryside branch library was removed in June.
Tuesday afternoon around 4, there weren't any children playing at the playground. There were, however, a half dozen men and women hanging out under the pavilion.
One of them, George Jackson, said lots of children play there.
Removing the playground "would be bad for the kids," said Jackson, 55.
Sobush, a director of the Cypress Bend Homeowners Association, said he spoke on behalf of his group, and did not intend to put another playground at risk.
They're a "slowly disappearing slice of the way of life we knew before," Sobush said.