Oldsmar must ensure park doesn't harm bay

Published October 25, 2007

There isn't a lot to do at Oldsmar's waterfront Veterans Memorial Park, other than to stroll under the trees or sit in your car and gaze out at Old Tampa Bay.

For some, that is the appeal of the park. There is nothing to do but absorb the quiet. Those people might think the park needs nothing more to be perfect.

However, the 5-acre parcel at 250 Shore Drive E, formerly the site of the Kumar mansion, was a major investment for the city at $2.2-million. So the City Council recently approved a plan to start "improving" the park so more people may find it appealing to use.

To its credit, the city seems to be trying to walk a fine line between maintaining the park's passive appeal and adding recreational amenities. The plan is to build a gazebo, two picnic shelters, restrooms, a bocce ball court, a canoe and kayak launch, a walking path and parking.

There is no doubt that those additions will bring more activity to the park. The gazebo and restrooms, in such a picturesque location, no doubt will make the park appealing for small weddings. The canoe and kayak launch is bound to be popular because it will give those who practice the sports easy access to the shallow, still waters of upper Tampa Bay. The picnic shelters will be handy for families or small groups.

City Leisure Services Director Lynn Rives said there will be no playground because of the desire to maintain a quiet atmosphere, and that the big shade trees on the property will be protected.

As the city develops its plan for improving and maintaining the park, we hope officials are especially cognizant of the need for special care because the park overlooks a troubled section of Tampa Bay. There are environmentally sensitive alternatives to pavement for parking areas. A plan for containing litter so it won't blow into the bay is essential. And use of fertilizers and herbicides on the park's green grass can dump harmful chemicals into the bay through stormwater runoff.

Oldsmar made an investment in the future when it stretched to purchase the Kumar land, and it is investing in the future by creating a park there so the view of the water is preserved in perpetuity. The city just needs to make sure that this park does no harm to the bay.