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Dunedin looks at long-range plan to upgrade Highlander Park

DUNEDIN — Christmas might come early for city officials who will submit a wish list of Highlander Park improvements to the City Commission for approval in October.

The list of items — which includes a new aquatic center and pool, the addition of tennis courts and baseball fields to accommodate population growth, and the replacement of aging facilities — updates the city's 2004 master plan for the park.

If approved, the master plan will guide the relocation and replacement of park facilities as funds become available over the next 20 or so years.

"The point is to have this as a road map of where we want to build things if and when the monies do materialize," architect Rod Collman told about a dozen residents who attended the second of two public meetings on the plan Wednesday night at the Dunedin Community Center.

As with the first meeting, officials will use feedback received Wednesday to tweak the plan before submitting the final draft to commissioners this fall.

Among the proposed changes:

• Create 172 new parking spaces by relocating scattered athletic facilities into clusters. The city would install benches and trees in some of the added green space.

• Add two baseball fields, for a total of nine, which could possibly be rented to outside groups to generate revenue.

• Add an extra adult tennis court, as well as two youth courts.

• Build a year-round aquatic complex that would house the children's sprayground, picnic and party facilities, a new pool with slides and possibly some fitness equipment.

There would be a "nominal fee" to use the complex, which Parks and Recreation Director Vince Gizzi called "the driving force" behind the park reconfiguration.

"The aquatic center will be a fun place to stay for hours," Gizzi said. "With the economy the way it is, having this right here in our city, it's like a 'staycation.' "

Resident Steve Nelson wasn't convinced. He said the city shouldn't be spending money on amenities like pool slides when other cities are tightening their belts.

"They don't think about maintenance on all that stuff. And what if the economy gets worse?" asked 59-year-old Nelson, who lives on Pinehurst Road. "Will people be buying passes to go to all that stuff?"

Warren Wylie, 74, said he was worried whether the relocation of some park structures would negatively affect pedestrian traffic from Idlewild Drive. He also voiced concern about potential light and noise pollution.

Otherwise, he said he's on board with the changes.

"Dunedin's a progressive city," he said, "and I'm all for what they're doing."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

.fast facts

Highlander Park master plan gets updated

Architects with the Tampa-based Collman & Karsky have spent about four months working with Dunedin officials and park users on the $10,000 Highlander Park master plan update.

The main factors behind the update, officials said, were the need to replace the park's 20-year-old rusted playground equipment, 40-year-old fire station, obsolete Little League clubhouse and leaky pool.

Officials have proposed using $1.5 million of Dunedin's 2012 budget to relocate Fire Station 61 and $370,000 to replace the clubhouse.

If approved when the City Commission votes on the final budget Sept. 22, both facilities would be among the first portions implemented under the updated Highlander Park plan.

Dunedin looks at long-range plan to upgrade Highlander Park 08/18/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 18, 2011 8:41pm]

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