St. Petersburg's purchase of house would clear way for Childs Park Lake renewal

ST. PETERSBURG — Not many people take walks around Childs Park Lake. There are remnants of a gravel-paved trail around the brackish water, but not much. Garbage poking out of the water is more obvious.

"It's an eyesore," said Brenda Nelson, president of the Childs Park Neighborhood Association, who lives a few blocks from the lake.

This week, the city expects to close on the purchase of a ranch house in the 4200 block of 10th Avenue S. It is the last of five properties the city set out to buy a few years ago as plans for the park's redesign evolved.

Later this year, the city will hold public meetings to gather ideas about what the 4-acre lake and its slice of surrounding parkland can become.

The lake renovation is part of the Greater Childs Park Area strategic plan, which the city launched in 2007. The plan, which can be found online at stpete.org/midtown, roughed out an ideal of what city and community wanted to see happen in the area — better amenities and infrastructure for a community that suffers from a glut of abandoned homes, rampant unemployment and high crime rates.

Several ideas came about for the lake after a series of public workshops in 2008. One called for a "neighborhood plaza for community gathering" featuring a large pavilion on the corner of 43rd Street and 11th Avenue S. Another called for a remade path around the lake, and benches dotting the shore.

"We envision some kind of environmental education aspect to this park," said Paul Stellrecht, a city economic development coordinator working on the project.

Just across the street from the lake, the city recently began construction of the Clam Bayou Trail, a biking and pedestrian path that takes the Pinellas Trail south toward the Sunshine Skyway.

The lake, which looks like a jigsaw puzzle piece on a map, is bordered by Ninth and 11th avenues S and 42nd and 43rd streets. The lots purchased by the city, four with ranch-style homes and one a grassy patch, are at 10th Avenue S and 43rd Street. All of the homes will be razed; two already have been.

The city spent a little over $500,000 in purchasing the properties, according to its real estate department.

Like other city lakes, Childs Park Lake is open for fishing from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and is typically stocked with bass, bream, catfish and Nile perch. The lake was built in 1977 as a stormwater pond to relieve flooding. Years ago, an unsuccessful environmental project left the shoreline uneven and unstable.

City Council member Wengay Newton said he envisions a boardwalk circling the lake, similar to one in Dell Holmes Park.

"I know this park will get used," he said.

Luis Perez can be reached at lperez@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2271.

St. Petersburg's purchase of house would clear way for Childs Park Lake renewal 02/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 5:54pm]

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