Wednesday, January 17, 2018

In Tampa, parks make the city

The seasonal ice skating rink that opened this month at Curtis Hixon Park is another reminder of the vibrant role the city's parks have to play in the development of downtown Tampa. Mayor Bob Buckhorn needs to continue the quality programming at Curtis Hixon and elsewhere and work to bring Riverfront Park on the western bank of the waterfront into the downtown mix.

The rink, which runs through Jan. 5, is an annual favorite that draws thousands every day to skate and watch. And it doubles as a draw to the waterfront park, bringing people to the Riverwalk and the adjacent museums. In only a few years, Curtis Hixon has become the public gathering space that then-Mayor Pam Iorio hoped to create before leaving office in 2011. Now the challenge is to build on the park's prominence and bring activity to other green spaces throughout downtown.

Several ongoing efforts could help do just that. The master plan the city is drafting for the greater downtown area could act as a guide for incorporating the parks much more fully into the downtown experience. The trick for Curtis Hixon is to keep the park humming with events; the city has done a good job of programming functions of every size and variety, from music and cultural events to Buckhorn's annual state of the city speech. The pocket parks downtown aren't as accommodating, but the city can do minor things — adding benches, allowing drink carts — to make them more appealing.

The city, the Tampa Housing Authority and civic leaders are looking to redevelop a vast area of West Tampa that runs to the western bank of the Hillsborough River, opposite from downtown. This is an opportunity to bring the underutilized Riverfront Park more fully into the sphere of downtown activity. The park's vast open space and waterfront location make it a perfect setting for dog walks, picnics and other everyday diversions. The city should preserve the clean sight lines on the northern end and work to make Riverfront more of a focal point.

The city is also preparing to reopen Water Works Park, across from Riverfront. That would stretch the ribbon of waterfront park land from the performing arts center to the northern edge of downtown. Once completed, with a restaurant, kayak launch and other amenities, Water Works will connect downtown with the historic neighborhoods north. Thousands of residents will have a picturesque gateway into downtown and an outdoor corridor for cycling, running or walking. The city will need to maintain a safe, clean pathway and a passive environment to maximize the natural attraction of the river.

Great urban settings are not measured by buildings alone. In rediscovering its parks, Tampa has a chance to soften the earlier mistakes of building along the river. The downtown waterfront is an asset only if people can see it and enjoy it. Curtis Hixon has become a popular spot because the vista speaks for itself. The city should replicate that model at its other parks and look to use the downtown green space for the broadest public benefit.


Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18