Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough parks department wants to consolidate programs

TAMPA­­ — Like their counterparts in Tampa, Hillsborough County officials are contemplating a leaner, meaner parks department.

Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department officials want to reduce the number of centers offering staffed programs from 42 to 12. That would mean a longer drive for that arts and crafts class or exercise group.

But it might be easier to fill the classes and retain good instructors with less duplication, said department director Mark Thornton, who unveiled the plan to commissioners Thursday.

The commission took no action on the plan, which will be shared with the public in community gatherings before a decision is made this summer.

With property tax revenue reduced during the recession, parks departments everywhere have looked for places to cut. The changes involve neighborhood programs residents have long enjoyed for little money.

The Hillsborough department incurred a backlash in 2008 when it raised fees for after-school programs. Enrollment plummeted, largely because the school district cut transportation to the centers. Today fewer than 1,800 students use the program, from a high of 6,200 in 2006, according to Thornton's report.

The new plan would keep the smaller centers available for homeowner association meetings, garden club gatherings and other events that do not require county staffing.

County-led programs would take place at regional centers such as the University Area Community Center and the all People's Life Center in east Tampa.

Centers including those in Westchase and Brandon would expand. Others, in locations including Keystone and Progress Village, would be built new.

The estimated $30 million in construction, spread over six years, would come from $7.5 million in yearly savings from phasing out neighborhood programs.

About 170 part-time and full-time workers would lose their jobs, Thornton said. Some of the jobs would be lost in another component of the plan, which uses private contractors to maintain the sports fields.

Thornton's plan also calls for sports leagues to use the athletic fields more evenly. It enhances revenue-producing "eco-tourism" activities at nature parks.

Commissioners, while receptive, made it clear they will get an earful from constituents. Some have heard rumors that parks are closing. Thornton assured them they are not.

Commissioner Victor Crist wondered whether it might make sense for Hillsborough to join forces with the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City to form a regional parks authority.

Commissioner Les Miller lamented the potential layoffs.

"We hate to see anyone lose their jobs," he said.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at sokol@sptimes.com.

Hillsborough parks department wants to consolidate programs 04/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 9:14am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays' Evan Longoria: "We have all the belief in the world in here"

    Blogs

    The weekend sweep by Texas and four-game overall losing streak has some Rays fans - based on their tweets and emails - questioning the team's ability to make the playoffs and suggesting they might as well trade away their key parts.

  2. FWC: Fish away for invasive lionfish

    Water

    Times staff

    What could be better than fishing and helping save the Gulf of Mexico?

    Add prizes.

    Lionfish, originally from the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, are an invasive species in the Gulf of Mexico. [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
  3. Gerald McCoy cares too much about what you think of him

    The Heater

    Gerald McCoy is right. We are going to miss him when he's gone.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of 16 players to record at least five sacks in each of the past five seasons. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Ronde Barber says comments about McCoy 'sensationalized'

    Blogs

    If anyone thinks Ronde Barber was throwing shade at Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, think again.

    "That anyone would assume I would say the best player on the defense isn’t a bad dude is irresponsible and sensationalizing a quote to serve their own means,'' Ronde Barber said.
  5. Nine years later, library attack victim Queena works at learning to walk again

    News

    Slowly, Queena Phu is learning the act of walking again through exercises in locomotion, strength and balance.

    Queena Phu of Tampa and prosecutor Rita Peters arrive at the Stay In Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center on Monday.
 Phu, 27, has endured a long road to recovery after suffering brain damage from a brutal attack that left her unable to walk, talk, see or eat on her own. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]