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Planning for park colored by concerns

As Gulfport City Council refines plans to upgrade Tomlinson Park, worries arise over how it will be treated by users.

By AMY WIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 13, 2000


GULFPORT -- Mayor Michael Yakes is convinced that the neighborhood surrounding Tomlinson Park is eager to see improvements to the park, but he frets over how children will treat it.

"The biggest concern, and it's with regret, but we will fix this very rapidly, is that supervision is the whole issue," Yakes said. "When we get done with examining the proposal that's before us and putting in the park, it comes back to how the park is being used and how it could be abused."

The Gulfport City Council met last week to consider the plans for Tomlinson Park, an upgrade the city hopes will improve conditions along the blighted 49th Street corridor.

And while neighbors of the park are pleased that the city is investing time and money in their community, some are also frustrated with how some of the children who already use the park treat it. Some said they have children urinate on equipment and litter the park.

"The kids don't appreciate it," said Catherine Gianonne, who lives across the street from the park. "Kids playing baseball over there have broken my windows. . . . This is totally upsetting to me -- totally."

Last week's meeting was a workshop designed to take community comment on the project, and council members say they want to make the park a valued part of the neighborhood.

"When we did get together and tried to come up with a plan for this particular park, we wanted to please as many people as we possibly could," Council member Larry Cooper said. "We wanted to make this area as aesthetically pleasing as we could to the neighbors. We wanted to see property values go up. We want this park to be a park that everyone could use and enjoy."

Among the city's plans for the park:

Expansion and cleanup of Lake Tomlinson. This project has received $191,000 from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the city will put $191,000 more into lake improvements.

The lake project involves expanding the retention pond to improve drainage in the neighborhood. The city also will plant native vegetation that will act as a natural filter for the water, which ultimately flows into Boca Ciega Bay.

A pedestrian walkway, which would be linked to a boardwalk and dock at the lake.

Baseball field improvements. The city plans to remove the Tee-ball field and add a second Little League-size field to the park.

The city also plans to allow one of those fields to be used for pick-up games or other events besides Little League, such as church fundraisers. That field still would be used for Little League games.

Addition of trees and other landscaping. The city hopes to receive an urban forestry grant of $2,500, which would fund the planting of 30 cypress trees in the park.

Improvements to other amenities, including the batting cage and the restrooms. City officials also hope to have what they call a "free play" area, where park users can play Frisbee and unorganized games of football, soccer or catch.

They also are working to decide what to do with the tennis courts. A skate park or roller hockey area could be part of the plans.

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