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Neighbors dread changes in pond

The small pond is flanked on one side by low-lying tree branches and foliage, where dragonflies dart in and out. As a chorus of bullfrogs grunt in the background, a mother duck leads her fluffy yellow and brown ducklings across the murky water.

Victoria Bredberg enjoys seeing these pristine scenes on Rigsby Pond behind her Third Street duplex.

"This is nature back here," Bredberg said. "We love it."

But the quiet pond has become a sore spot between Bredberg and some of her neighbors and the city. Some residents fear the city's plan to enlarge the capacity of Rigsby Pond _ part of Safety Harbor's master drainage improvement plan _ will compromise its character.

They say residents have been excluded from the redesign process, and their concerns have been ignored. Too many old trees will be uprooted to make way for the enlarged pond, they say.

Work on the pond area, which is north of Main Street near Third Street and Seventh Avenue, is scheduled to begin this week.

"It is my feeling that the pond is beautiful as it is now. If they make it ugly, it is likely to remain ugly for many years after that," said Harry Reid, who lives near Rigsby Pond. "We want to maintain the beauty of the pond. I'm afraid that they're not going to do that."

Bredberg said: "I just feel like they've totally neglected us. It's not a question of us being selfish. We want it to be nice."

City Manager Pamela Brangaccio said the project won't be finished until October, giving city officials plenty of time to work with residents. She said the city plans to put in some additional landscaping after the project is done.

She said it is premature for residents to worry about the pond redesign.

"I think we also told them that they needed to wait and see what we did. Of course it's going to look great," Brangaccio said. "We've already moved on in terms of our project. Quite frankly, the issue's over."

This year, residents near Rigsby Pond complained that an engineer's plan to enlarge the pond was too generic and angular. They urged the city to redo the design and come up with something more natural.

"Nothing against the engineer, but that was an ugly pond," Mayor Kent Runnells said.

Rick Bredberg, Victoria Bredberg's cousin and neighbor, offered a compromise plan, featuring more rounded contours and two islands in the middle of the pond designed to save some oak trees. The engineer came up with a more natural design, but other parts of Rick Bredberg's plan were rejected.

The city's engineers said that the tree islands would cut the pond's drainage capacity 45 percent and that the trees probably wouldn't live. Brangaccio also said the plan was too expensive.

"There's always ways to make something less expensive," Rick Bredberg said. "There's nothing there that was that high-tech."

Judy Price, who also lives along Rigsby Pond believes the engineers, not city officials, have been reluctant to consider their wishes.

"It was almost like, woe to them that the City Council made them go back and redesign the pond in the first place," Price said. "They kind of laughed at what we designed."

Residents are also upset about the city's plan to remove two aging cedar trees in the process. But Brangaccio said the trees are in bad condition and probably would be removed anyway.

"They're old, old cedar trees," Brangaccio said. "We're not talking nice trees."

But Runnells said he disagrees with cutting the cedars down.

"Why cut them down if they don't need to be cut down?" Runnells said. "I don't think the residents' interests and concerns were given the attention they deserved, period."

Victoria Bredberg said she hopes it isn't too late to reach some sort of compromise.

"I love living in Safety Harbor," she said. "If we're going to start improving the area, let's do it right."