Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater's sand castle playground looks unlikely

This is a rendering of a $440,000 sand castle playground planned for Clearwater Beach’s Pier 60 Park.

City of Clearwater

This is a rendering of a $440,000 sand castle playground planned for Clearwater Beach’s Pier 60 Park.

CLEARWATER—The city's vision for a "Sand Castle Playground" to draw tourists and continue the rebranding of Clearwater Beach appears to be dissolving in the face of opposition from Clearwater Beach residents and businesses.

"I can kick myself because I probably should have realized this when we approved it. We've been closing some playgrounds down and we're spending money on a playground," said Mayor George Cretekos, who said he's now leaning against the project.

The City Council will discuss the playground at Monday's work session. The plan calls for the $440,000 play structure to be built near Pier 60's existing playground, which would remain open. The concrete structure would resemble a giant sand castle in a grassy area just west of the Clearwater Beach Roundabout.

Last week, the Clearwater Beach Association heard a presentation from Parks and Recreation director Kevin Dunbar before its board voted unanimously to oppose the project, said Wendy Hutkin, the association's president.

"It's very expensive and not something that is needed. That area is already congested," Hutkin said.

Higher priorities for beach residents are extended hours for the Clearwater Beach Library and Recreation Center, including keeping the pool open throughout the year, she said.

Although the city had been studying the playground idea for some time, Hutkin said beach residents found out about it by chance at a council meeting.

Now that the city knows how they feel, she said, the project should be scrapped.

"I hope they would listen to the voice of the public," she said.

Dunbar was out of the office and unavailable for comment late last week.

In April, the council voted to postpone the vote on the playground after hearing resident and business concerns.

Last week, the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the council taking a neutral stance while noting it wasn't possible to quantify the potential economic impact of the playground.

The regional chamber surveyed its members and found that while 62 percent of its general membership favored the playground, its beach-based membership didn't.

The Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce was more blunt, openly opposing the project.

"We are not of the belief that this playground will be the deciding factor in anyone's decision on where to vacation. This is a relatively small playground, not an amusement park," wrote Eric Waltz, the chamber's board chairman.

More parking, especially on the north end of the beach, is a more pressing need, he wrote.

Doreen Hock-DiPolito, the lone City Council member who voted against postponing the playground vote last month, said she still supports the idea. A signature landmark like the playground is a way to continue "branding" Clearwater Beach, recently named by USA Today as the state's best beach town.

"My position is that the Pier 60 plan done by Parks and Rec fits with the branding moving forward. That's really the reason why I feel so strongly about continuing that vision for the future growth of the area," Hock-DiPolito said.

Similar opposition was raised several years ago about the Clearwater Harbor Marina, she said, which she said has proven successful.

"Sometimes change is hard for people," Hock-DiPolito said. "It's not just about one park, not just about one location, it's about a strategic plan."

One possibility is that the council could split apart the park and other parts of the project: a flag plaza, estimated to cost $100,000, displaying the flags of the U.S. military to be located between Pier 60 and the Clearwater Beach Roundabout; and a new "Welcome to Clearwater Beach" sign.

Cretekos said the council might choose to defeat the current proposal in a vote and then amend it to just spend the money on the flag plaza and the sign, which he estimated would cost between $10,000 and $20,000.

Hock-DiPolito said she supports the plaza and sign.

"We need the sign sooner than later," she said.

Clearwater Beach residents accept that living in a tourist destination means they have to make compromises, Hutkin said, but tourist attractions shouldn't always trump local needs.

"There has to be a balance," Hutkin said.

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

Clearwater's sand castle playground looks unlikely 05/10/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 10, 2013 6:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  2. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  3. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  4. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the funk they are in right now.

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Tim Beckham (1) after being doubled off first on the liner by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (11) in to end the seventh inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, July 24, 2017.
  5. A historic Tampa family saves a historic Tampa home built by an ancestor

    Human Interest

    The Knight family has replaced their roof and people are celebrating.

    The Peter O. Knight historical cottage, located in Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood, is seen Thursday, July 20, 2017. The cottage fell into disrepair in recent years, but the Knight family stepped up with financial support to help stabilize the structure.