NEW PORT RICHEY — Trinity homeowners have waited for decades for a park of their own but keep running into this reality: Pasco County can afford to build parks but not to operate them.
Now the development company behind the 4,000-home community says it's willing to kick in $60,000 to help maintain a park for the first two years.
County officials say it would be the first public park run, in part, with a private donation.
Developers and residents envision a passive park on 24 acres near State Road 54 and Trinity Boulevard: walking trails, tennis and basketball courts, a picnic shelter and a dog park.
No construction costs were available Tuesday, but assistant county administrator Dan Johnson said the price tag would probably be in line with that of Lake Lisa Park near Embassy Hills. That project cost about $434,000.
Lew Friedland, president of Adam Smith Enterprises, told commissioners that maintenance costs for the proposed Trinity Park would be about $35,000 a year. That means the company's contribution would help pay for almost two years.
The site of the proposed park — near the firehouse/sheriff substation at State Road 54 and Trinity Boulevard — was the originally proposed location for a softball complex aimed at attracting weekend tournaments.
Commissioners scrapped that plan after residents of the nearby seniors community of Heritage Springs opposed the location, saying they wanted a low-key park that they could enjoy.
Back in June, commissioners convened a task force made up of Trinity residents to come up with a park proposal.
Friedland said Trinity homeowners have paid an estimated $1.3 million in park impact fees to build the park. They are due the park, he said, and he suggested that residents would show up in force if the developer's offer doesn't move the project along.
"We made a strategic decision, right or wrong, not to fill your room today," Friedland told commissioners.
Commission Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand, who is part of the Trinity park task force, said the donation is a good gesture in this economy.
"To me, this is the ultimate public-private partnership," she said.
Commissioner Jack Mariano said he had concerns about moving ahead with a new park when the county had to start charging $2 vehicle fees to generate maintenance income.
"I think we need to shoulder up and say we're going to fund our parks," said Mariano.
He also raised the issue of competing projects, including a $11 million waterfront park proposed at SunWest Mine in Hudson. The developer must kick in $2.5 million to the project under the terms of a settlement agreement with the county. A state environmental permit to dredge a channel with that project is pending.
County Administrator John Gallagher told commissioners they need to give him some guidance on what park projects they want to fund first.
"I don't know what the board's priority is on these multiple projects," he said.
Commissioners agreed to discuss the subject at a workshop.
Shawn Foster, a Fox Woods resident and district director for U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, told commissioners that Trinity residents will be watching.
"I've never seen a community so fired up over a park," he said.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.