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Neighborhood upset over Jungle Prada pier closing

By JON WILSON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 18, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- Park Street N, a west St. Petersburg thoroughfare that runs parallel to Boca Ciega Bay, is known for its gracious houses and historic sites.

But public access to the bay waterfront is rare, some residents say.

Two neighborhood associations again have the issue on their radar because of a pier at historic Jungle Prada Park, Park Street N and Elbow Lane, near the 1700 block.

Citing safety reasons, city government recently closed the pier. At present, there are no plans to repair or replace it, officials say.

The closure doesn't surprise Sandy Bozeman, Jungle Prada Neighborhood Association president.

"It hasn't had railings for years," she said.

"But my concern is that we cannot just stop right there. It affects on awful lot of folks on this side of town."

Some members of the neighboring Jungle Terrace Civic Association have joined the cause.

"Boca Ciega Bay is a pretty neat place, but you can't get to it," said Steve Plice, Jungle Terrace president.

Plice said he believes the city's west side is not getting its share of services, citing the pier, the proposed closing of Azalea Library and winter closure of Walter Fuller Pool.

The city closed the pier after an engineer looked at it and decided it was unsafe, said city services administrator Lee Metzger,

"The primary issue is liability," Metzger said. "We have a facility out there and we're responsible for it."

What happens next is uncertain. There is no money in the recently approved city budget to work on park amenities, Metzger said. Improvements are scheduled for the park in 2007, but the pier is not specifically mentioned, he said.

Further discussion is likely.

"I'm going to go into the grander scope," Bozeman said. "One of the things the neighborhood association has talked about . . . is truly the whole park. The boat ramp is in terrible shape. The pier is a separate issue. So maybe this whole thing is kind of timely."

Four parks are situated along Park Street. Abercrombie Park at 38th Avenue N is the biggest. Then comes Jungle Prada, Sunset Park at Central Avenue and Coconut Park at Fifth Avenue S. Jungle Prada is sometimes known as Panfilo de Narvaez Park, named for the 16th-century explorer whose landing site is nearby.

All the parks are in some measure historic. Besides the Narvaez site, Jungle Prada contains Indian mounds and remnants of the Gangplank, a Prohibition Era club steeped in bootleggers' lore.

Jungle Prada is the only park with a pier. Used by anglers and strollers looking at the bay, it is particularly popular on July 4, Bozeman and Plice say. Crowds use it as a vantage point to see fireworks from several beach cities across the bay.

A public meeting should be set to determine how extensively the pier is used, Metzger said.

After that would come series of analyses and decisions about costs, and whether repairing or replacing the structure is justified, and if so, whether any work on it should be given higher priority.

"I don't think we're going to leave it with yellow tape for the next four years," Metzger said. "So can it be moved up (in priority)? I just don't have those answers yet."

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