Macfarlane Park: Group tries to mollify fears about loss of trees
The Boys & Girls Club says it will replant more than the number lost, and members will help clean up the park.
By DENISE WATSON BATTS
Published February 27, 2004
The proposed West Tampa Boys & Girls Club will not deplete MacFarlane Park's trees nor congest the park, club officials told the City Council last week. Council members heard presentations by the club and the Tampa Parks and Recreation Department after residents near MacFarlane Park raised concerns that the planned facility would take too many trees and too much space.
The club on MacDill Avenue, which serves about 200 children daily, has to move to make way for the widening of Interstate 275.
Council member Mary Alvarez said she asked for the presentation to allay fears about the $1.6-million building. Club officials said 11 trees would be lost during construction, but 40 would be replanted. The proposed 16,000-square-foot facility, near Renfrew and Green streets, would take up about 1 percent of the park. The building would displace a jogging trail that could be rerouted, Alvarez said.
"I don't see why it's becoming an issue," Alvarez said. The club had been bumped from property on the opposite corner when a community group fought to preserve the Guida House on the site.
"They're trying their best to stay in that area, and I don't want it to move out of West Tampa," Alvarez said.
Pilar Cohalla, coordinator of the Northeast MacFarlane Crime Watch Association, did not attend the council meeting but said about two-thirds of the 65 people who showed up at her group's February meeting opposed building the club in the park.
They weren't against the club, she said, but they were concerned that the park already has enough activities - a playground, senior center and baseball.
"They feel there are too many things going on in that area," Cohalla said.
Paddy Moses, director of development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, said they've fielded calls from people concerned that the club would require too much parking and the children would trash the park and increase crime.
Moses said the city had asked for 61 parking spaces, but the club needs only 10 to 12. Statistics show that crime rates drop in areas where Boys & Girls clubs are present, she said, and the children at the club often clean up the park as part of their community work.
"Quite frankly, these . . . kids have been across the street from them since 1928," Moses said.
The club's location is not a done deal. The city is completing a lease agreement, which may take another 30 to 60 days. The council also must vote on the deal, and no date has been set.
If the council doesn't approve the MacFarlane Park plan, there are no other sites in West Tampa, Moses said. The club must be out of its current home by January.