Residents hope to save park story, July 12
Closing park a bad idea, likely costly
There is no doubt that Bonner Park is heavily used and loved by Largo residents. Closing it would be a great loss to the many families nearby, as well as an irretrievable loss to the ecology.
Despite repeated assurances (by city officials) that closing the park is "just a proposal," a notice has been posted at the entrance which states as a fact that the park will close in October. Viable alternatives, such as alternate closing days for McGough and Bonner parks, user fees, volunteers from the neighborhood, etc., should be considered — or does the commission simply want to sell this irreplaceable piece of untouched coastal Florida?
Closing the park will create short- and long-term burdens on taxpayers. Short term, Largo's excellent but already overextended police force will have the added burden of monitoring the closed park, which will be an attraction for vandalism and other undesirable activities.
Long term, the closure would cause much larger expenses for taxpayers. If, as expected, the economy improves in 2010, there might be proposals to reopen the park. At that point we will hear comments from public officials that huge sums would be needed to bring the park back into usable shape. End result: sale to developers. Is that what this is all about?
If you are concerned about this very poorly thought-out proposal, attend meetings and write to the Largo city commissioners. The park, a unique oasis of peace and untouched nature, should be preserved, and closing it will cost the taxpayers, not save money.
Bob Anderson, Largo
Speak out against closing the parks
This is to protest not only the city of Largo's intent to close the Largo Nature Preserve and John Bonner Park, but the heavy-handed manner in which it was handled. It appears that the plans were not widely known and only through rumor was their intent found out. A little more sunshine is required of city plans.
These parks are a wonderful addition to the city's resources, but unfortunately, the parks and recreation department seems to lean very heavily on the recreation side of things. These are wonderful facilities and I'm sure many people use them, but the city must keep in mind that not all of the taxpayers are recreation-oriented. There are those of us who much prefer to enjoy the peace and quiet of a nature park with its trails and amenities.
They are one of the few places that people (and their animals) can experience Florida as it should be. There is little enough green space left in Florida and the city of Largo has always been able to point with pride to its parks.
Recreation, Parks and Arts Department director Joan Byrne says that the city can save $150,000 a year by closing these parks. Frankly, this amount is peanuts compared to the money the city spends on nonessential items, such the inordinate amount of plantings they have been doing along Central Park Drive, in front of the Southwest Rec Center, the improvements to the Highland Complex and the 70-plus trees they have planted on 137th Avenue between Walsingham and Wilcox roads, as well as all the dithering about spending money on the clock tower. Priorities should dictate the greatest good for the largest number of people and these two parks serve many people who love them.
As for the possibility of the parks maybe being opened again later, we all know how that would go. Once they close them, we will lose them forever. Who knows, maybe the ultimate plan is to sell them for development and that would truly be a tragedy.
If there are people who want to see these parks survive, they must contact the city government and make their wishes known.
Constance Dawson, Largo
Join group working to save our parks
The news over the last few days of the possibility of the Largo Nature Preserve (which both of my parents frequent on an almost daily basis) and Bonner Park in Largo both closing is sad and frustrating. Add to that the news that Pinellas County's new Eagle Lake Park (a park I personally have been waiting for years to open) is for all intents and purposes finished, but can't open due to budget constraints, and now I'm just mad.
Show us the breakdown of the budget needed to open this park and to keep the others running. I am almost positive the concerned residents could come up with a slashed budget plan superior to the one(s) in place now.
If you want to have your voice heard, please join Save Largo and Clearwater's Nature Parks at www.facebook.com/Rebecca ZammitoBrittain or search that title on Facebook.com.
Rebecca Brittain, Clearwater
Despite tough times, we can afford good land use plans, Diane Steinle column, July 5
Planning Council is under attack
The Pinellas Planning Council, a countywide land planning agency, is more important than ever to the citizens of Pinellas County. Now that Gov. Charlie Crist has sold out Florida to the developers, the citizens in each county will have to tighten up their plans for development.
You very rarely see the actions of the Pinellas Planning Council. Its work is accomplished in small meetings that do not get noticed unless its actions differ with the Pinellas County Commission. Then, the citizens have an opportunity to witness just how important the Planning Council is. Recently, the Pinellas Planning Council fought, for you and me, the County Commission's plan to designate a portion of the Brooker Creek Preserve for future construction of water treatment plants, water storage tanks and such.
This is how the Pinellas County Commission works: tear things apart into small pieces and no one will notice the big picture. However, the Planning Council did notice and tried to stop it. (Please note the definition of "preserve": maintain something in its original or existing state. This is a concept that the County Commission cannot see.)
County Administrator Bob LaSala says that he is not being punitive in telling the Planning Council that it is necessary for the agency to cut its budget almost in half and stop levying its dedicated tax on county residents. That is like telling the Planning Council to spend the money it has, do not bother to raise any more, and plan on being nonexistent.
Is this really what the citizens of Pinellas County want? I do not think so. This council was established in 1988 by a special act of the Florida Legislature when someone had the foresight to realize that one day a governor such as Crist would come along and sell out our state to the developers. The problem with this special act is that it gives the county commissioners the right to "review the budget, raising or reducing it as it deems necessary."
Now, more than ever, the citizens of Pinellas County must do everything we can to protect our land. Watch to see if the county administrator really does everything he can do to abolish this council, which is working to protect the environment. We need the Pinellas Planning Council.
Margaret Hyde, Clearwater