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Neighbors debate fencing pond
By ERIC STIRGUS
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 1, 2000
LARGO -- Dave Roberts and Don Rawley have the same view when they wake up each morning:that of a 4-acre retention pond surrounded by grass.
The two men live a few hundred yards from each other along Second Street SW, but they see the expansive pond in strikingly different ways.
Roberts, 18, a recent transplant from Brooklyn, N.Y., thinks of it as a tranquil setting; a place he often goes to sit at the base of the water and relax.
Rawley, 56, a lifelong Largo resident, sees the retention pond as just that, a place to hold stormwater. He is worried that one of the children who play with the large ducks in the pond may one day lose their balance and possibly drown.
A few weeks ago, Rawley called City Commissioner Mary Laurance and asked that the pond be fenced. Tonight, city commissioners will discuss spending as much as $25,000 to fence that pond and a 2-acre retention pond nearby.
"I certainly wouldn't want to see anyone hurt in that area," said Laurance, who asked the city staff to look into what it would take to fence the ponds.
In a memo laying out the issue to city commissioners, City Manager Steven Stanton encouraged commissioners to skip the fence idea and instead "engage in a dialogue with residents to encourage them to exercise appropriate parental supervision of children in the neighborhood."
City Commissioners Harriet Crozier and Pat Gerard said that safety concerns could be resolved -- and the city could save money -- if worried parents merely told their children to stay away from the ponds. They said they oppose the fencing idea.
"Parents do have to watch their children," Gerard said.
Workers began digging the ponds last August and finished in May. The 2-acre pond can be as much as 8 feet deep. The 4-acre pond can 12 feet deep. The ponds' minimum depth is between 31/2 and 4 feet.
Concerned that a child may fall into a pond and drown, city officials had the ponds built with gradual slopes so there would not be any steep drop-off areas.
Residents took an immediate liking to the pond along Second Street SW. One woman feeds the ducks each morning. Some parents walk with their children to the pond in the early evening hours. Some have tried to capture the image of the pond with a camera or by painting it. "It's just a nice place to come and relax," said Roberts, who lives in a three-bedroom apartment with his two older sisters.
But Rawley thinks there are plenty of places for children to play aside from the pond, pointing to Largo Central Park, which is a couple of blocks away.
"To me, it's a safety concern," said Rawley, who lives in a sky-blue home at the corner of Second Street SW and Fifth Avenue SW. "This is not a park. These are retention ponds, and they need to be fenced in."
Several retention ponds along East Bay Drive are fenced but one off Clearwater-Largo Road is not, according to City Engineer Mike Staffopoulos.
In November 1998, the city fenced part of a retention pond in the rear of an apartment complex off Fulton Street NE after a 2-year-old boy nearly had drowned on two separate occasions that year.
- Information from Times files was used in this report.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.