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Task force will forge recreation proposal

(ran South, East editions)

If, when and where New Tampa gets more parks hinges, in part, on the recommendations of 11 people.

So says County Administrator Pat Bean, who last week asked three community activists, and representatives from four environmental groups and four New Tampa athletic clubs to sit on a task force to study the area's recreational needs.

"Certainly, the goal is to have a balanced dialogue," said Mike Kelly, the county's real estate director and one of five additional nonvoting county or city representatives Bean asked to join the task force.

But before that dialogue begins, commissioners, including some who have already decided what's best for New Tampa, on Thursday must approve the recommendations for the task force.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman envisions baseball, football and soccer fields along 70 acres at Morris Bridge Road. Commissioner Kathy Castor and the county's parks and recreation staff do not.

"I think it would be hypocritical for county leaders to consider the site for a sports facility when the county denied the Bucs' training facility in that location because of its environmental sensitivity," Castor said.

Bean has asked that Sierra Club conservation chairwoman Lynn McGarvey, Neighborhood News publisher Gary Nager and Arbor Greene homeowner Jim Mennie settle this difference of opinion and present their recommendations at the commission's April 6 meeting (Mennie wants an ice hockey and aqua center in New Tampa).

Joining McGarvey, Mennie and Nager will be representatives of the New Tampa Little League, the New Tampa Soccer Association, and the New Tampa Sharks and Wildcats football programs.

Environmentalist groups that Bean has approached include the Hillsborough River Greenways Task Force, the Sierra Club, the Tampa Audubon Society and Wildlife Fellowship Inc.

After commissioners confirm membership of the citizens task force on Thursday, that will be the last time they wield their influence on the group.

Although Kelly, County Parks and Recreation Director Stan Motley and representatives from the county attorney's office, Tampa and Hillsborough schools will sit on the task force, they won't have any voting power. They will merely provide the group with quick access to information such as maps, property the county owns and New Tampa's future parks and recreation demands.

Kelly said commissioners don't want county staff members to influence the work of the task force.

Rodney Thrash can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or rthrashsptimes.com.

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