DUNEDIN — Nature, recreation and boating enthusiasts will soon have a new spot to play.
The Dunedin City Commission recently gave its parks and recreation department the okay to develop 2.3 acres of open grassland and 400 feet of shoreline, known as the Bleakley property, into a park, hopefully by the end of summer. The parcel is on Bayshore Boulevard, next to the Pinellas Trail overpass north of Curlew Road.
Oak, magnolia and other native trees will dot the park, overlooking picnic tables and benches where trail users and other visitors can lounge and enjoy views of scenic St. Joseph Sound. A shell path for pedestrians and bicyclists will ring the park, leaving plenty of open space for Frisbee, kickball and other recreation. The as-yet-unnamed park will have an eight-car shell parking lot.
But the most exciting feature, the staff said, will be a beachy area that gives way to a kayak launch.
"I think the attraction for the community and the neighborhood is its remaining open green space and the open view of the water," said parks and recreation director Vince Gizzi.
Dunedin managed to snag what was acknowledged as the city's last undeveloped tract of mainland waterfront property in 2010 after former owner Dale Bleakley agreed to drop his asking price by a half-million dollars to about $1 million.
The city used $775,000 in Land Dedication Ordinance reserves, a public parks account funded by residential developers' construction fees. Local landowner Sallie Guthrie chipped in the remaining $250,000 in exchange for the city bequeathing to her a dead-end road near her home, which she wanted to incorporate into a compound of homes and cottages for her family.
Gizzi said city park crews will use about $30,000 in the department's capital improvement fund to add park amenities; remove about 6 feet by 12 feet of mangroves to build the kayak launch; and build a fence separating the park from the Mediterranean Manors condominium development.
The annual cost of park maintenance is estimated at $3,500.
Other ongoing park projects include:
J.C. Weaver Park: The city expects to wrap up construction on pavilions, restrooms and a floating dock by summer's end. The park opened a year ago along Bayshore Boulevard just north of downtown. A matching grant will reimburse the city for half of the $500,000 cost of developing the park.
Trailside Oasis Park: This linear park — located across the road from the Bleakley property, at the northeast corner of Curlew and Alt. U.S. 19 — will feature an arboretum where people can learn about over 90 native trees in four groups: flowering, conifer, upland hardwood and wetland. The trees will be planted in phases over the next three years. City arborist Art Finn said about half of the flowering tree garden is already complete, thanks to a Boy Scout project. The Bay Bouquet Garden Club is sponsoring a May 19 adopt-a-tree ceremony in which volunteers will plant trees in honor of donors or their loved ones. Call Julie Easterday (727) 734-2058.
Gavin R. and Margaret M. Douglas Memorial Park: The lifelong Dunedin residents' children donated a half-acre tract at 538 and 540 Skinner Blvd., located just north of Mease Dunedin Hospital, late last year in exchange for the city naming the pocket park in their parents' memory. City staffers will ask commissioners to include park development money in next year's budget.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.