BROOKSVILLE — In an effort to avert some of what he saw coming, Hernando County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes opened Tuesday's meeting stressing that Brooksville has not asked the county for ownership of Hernando Park.
The statement didn't stop residents from coming forward to beg commissioners to save the downtown park from the city and the Brooksville Vision Foundation, which has proposed changes to the park that have drawn strong opposition.
Residents argued that months ago the city asked the foundation to negotiate with the county to take over the park, and they claimed that foundation meeting minutes indicate that foundation members see the transfer as a done deal.
Dukes, who like other commissioners has been inundated with concerns about losing the park's tennis courts, cutting down trees and removing the playground there, said he was ready for the issue to be resolved. He asked fellow commissioners whether they wanted to place the item on an upcoming agenda so they could make a decision. But other commissioners said they were not ready to discuss the issue at the present time.
Commissioner Dave Russell said the city hadn't asked for the park, and "frankly, after the Blueberry Festival is over, they may not want the damn thing.''
Tennis professional Judy Jeanette expressed concern about the future of the tennis courts and efforts by the foundation to replace them with new courts at Tom Varn Park.
She voiced opposition to the use of Hernando Park for the upcoming Florida Blueberry Festival and warned that festival organizers and the foundation "want to turn it into a self-sustaining commercial entity.''
Jeanette also urged the county to avoid touching the trees unless experts are sure they need to be cut.
Dukes invited Jeanette to sit in on an upcoming meeting where the trees will be discussed, and she agreed to do so. Jeanette also asked for details of whatever contract the county has agreed to with the festival and foundation boards.
"Some things are better left untouched,'' she said. "Hernando Park is one of them.''
Commissioner Jeff Stabins said he wanted to know how much it costs the county to keep up the park and what the county has spent there in recent years to keep it in good repair.
That was the original issue about the park, said Commissioner John Druzbick. Commissioners had first started discussing transfer of the park and the building known as the Teen Hall to the city last year during the budget-cutting discussions.
Ultimately, the commission decided Tuesday not to take up the issue again until after the conclusion of the Blueberry Festival.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.