SAFETY HARBOR — Someday, the city's waterfront park could be a destination, a sprawl of green space dotted with recreational assets such as a band shell, boardwalks through mangroves, a children's splash pad and day docks.
That's the concept that will be presented to the City Commission early next year, one that evolved from residents' opinions gathered at an October workshop and other outreach efforts.
"I thought it was a good mesh of everything," said Marie Padavich, a member of the waterfront park steering committee and chairwoman of the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
At a meeting of the steering committee Thursday — the final one of its six months of work — all 10 members in attendance liked the three-part concept that emphasizes the park's natural elements.
In the first phase, the city would add a parking lot on the south side of the park, near the existing marina. Pedestrian and multiuse trails would snake through the park, which would mostly consist of open lawn space and a beach along the bay. The park would have a band shell or stage close to a north entrance from Jefferson Street and Bayshore Drive, near Mullet Creek.
The second phase would involve building boardwalks through the existing mangroves on the north side of the property. The city would look into removing exotic plants from the mangroves. On the south section near the existing pier, a plaza would feature a kayak and canoe launch, a splash pad and terraced seating down to the water's edge.
In the third phase, the park would develop day docks near existing boat slips. It also leaves space for a building and a plaza at the end of Veterans Memorial Lane.
A possible building previously caused the most ruckus among residents, who didn't like the potential for commercial use at the park. The new concept outlines a building not on the waterfront property, with its use, size and look to be determined by a feasibility study.
"We don't want to foreclose on that option being available in the future," said Matt McLachlan, the city's community development director. "So what the plan does is show a location where it could be accommodated, if and when there's community support for moving forward with that part of the plan."
The concept, he stressed, contains ideas and nothing definite. It is still in the early planning stages, and the city is beginning to examine the costs associated with the project and what studies need to be done. The city would probably draw from community redevelopment and Penny for Pinellas funds, in addition to seeking grants. Any construction on the waterfront park would require approval from the commission.
"Money's going to dictate a lot of the phasing," said City Manager Matt Spoor. "There's no time line."
Steering committee members and residents raised some concerns about details in the concept, including the traffic flow on Veterans Memorial Lane and the position of the day docks.
The city bought the 13-acre undeveloped waterfront property from the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa early this year for $2.75 million. The park has not yet opened to the public.
To see the new conceptual plan for the waterfront park, go to cityofsafetyharbor.com.
Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or email@example.com.