OLDSMAR — Two city parks are getting a boost this spring with major improvements.
A new access road about 1,800 feet long, or a little more than a quarter of a mile, is in the final stages of construction at the Canal Park Sports Complex at 3120 Tampa Road.
And Veterans Memorial Park, the city's newest waterfront green space at 250 Shore Drive E, has undergone about a $600,000 upgrade.
The park's veterans memorial has been expanded and several new features have been added: two covered picnic shelters, a tiered, 30-foot hexagonal gazebo, restrooms, fitness equipment, canoe and kayak launch, and the city's only public bocce ball court.
The access road at Canal Park is costing $285,000, paid for out of the city's parkland and dedication fund.
The road is needed because between 60,000 and 70,000 people — clearly not all of them from Oldsmar, which has a population of about 14,000 — use the 46-acre complex each year, making it the city's busiest park.
Of particular concern are backups after Little League games and BMX events when drivers trying to exit onto Tampa Road "get stuck in the queue,'' said Lynn Rives, Oldsmar's leisure services director.
Started in January, the new road, which will allow drivers to make both right and left turns onto Curlew Road, will "make it easier'' to get in and out more quickly, he said.
But not everyone agrees.
"I'm not sure if this road is useful at all,'' said David Natelson, who's in charge of player selection for Oldsmar Little League but notes that he does not speak for the league.
He said from his perspective, maybe 25 percent of the baseball families would use the new road.
"That said, leaving from the Tampa Road exit is dangerous for young children who are at the BMX park," Natelson said. "They are typically riding bikes all over the football/soccer and baseball parking lots without supervision and as cars enter or leave from Tampa Road, I'm surprised there haven't been accidents, especially at night.
"It would have been better to move the BMX park or the Tampa Road entrance road so that the BMX and track had parking without a road between it and the parking lot.''
But Rives still believes "the traffic flow should improve leaving the park, overall.''
Paul Wedmore, a member of the Oldsmar Little League board of directors, agreed, saying the new road will help not only those entering and leaving "but for those of us who live on the Curlew side.''
Still, he has some reservations.
"It provides easy access to the baseball fields, soccer fields and BMX,'' Wedmore said. "My concern is the road being so close to the softball fields. The girls step out of the dugout and (are) right next to the road.
"Already, cars speed down the road. I would like for the city to put up a fence, not the metal ones the kids just swing on. Other than that, I feel it will be a nice addition.''
Rives said the city is planning to fence the dugout area of the adjacent field to control the flow out of the dugout in another direction from the road.
"We are also putting in traffic calming devices along the road to slow traffic,'' he said.
At Veterans Memorial Park, improvements also include a parking lot with 40 spaces and a winding walkway lined with Florida plants and flowers that will skirt the inside edge of the park.
Work was finished — except for the installation of flower beds — this month at a cost of a little more than $600,000, with $200,000 coming from a state matching grant. The remainder of the money came from the city's parkland dedication fund.
The park has turned out to be a popular venue for wedding ceremonies, where couples can tie the knot for just a few hundred dollars. It has been the site of about a half dozen nuptials so far.
"The setting is beautiful,'' Rives said. "Great sunsets.''
Eileen Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153.