NEW PORT RICHEY — City leaders took a step toward completing long-talked-about upgrades to New Port Richey's popular Sims Park in the coming months.
At a work session Tuesday, the City Council got a first look at renderings that are part of an ambitious three-phase master plan created by JAHarchitects, LLC., a Tampa firm hired to conceptualize revamping the park.
While ideas in the plan go so far as the construction of a four-story parking garage, a zip cord patrons can ride over the park and adjacent Orange Lake, and bigger restroom structures, the council picked a few items to get started on immediately.
The council agreed that the first order of business should be the relocation of the playground fronting Main Street which over the years has fallen into disrepair. A new playground is planned for the northern edge of the park across from Orange Lake, and away from the busy Main Street traffic. The council was also warm to the idea of constructing splash pads at the new park site.
Some residents have objected to JAH's proposal to close the portion of Grand Boulevard running along the boundary of the park, widening Sims Lane, and allowing two-way traffic on Circle Boulevard. The council ordered that a traffic study be undertaken on the plan's impact.
City Council member Bill Phillips acknowledged that changes in and around the park may take getting used to.
"They can't be dramatic day one," he said.
In addition to moving the playground, the council also called on staff to move forward with construction of docks on the river side of the park, and an overhead shading mechanism that could be unfurled on sunny days.
"Some of the events during the summer you just melt," said Mayor Rob Marlowe.
Interim City Manager Susan Dillinger estimated the cost of the initial requests to be around $1.8 million. The council is expected to a have a staff proposal to vote on at an upcoming meeting.