The Land O’ Lakes Community Center of the future looks very different from the park people use today.
Residents who attended a public meeting May 9 couldn’t be happier about it. The small crowd of mostly Heritage Park Foundation members turned out to see what the county has in mind for future renovations.
“I’m very happy with it,” said Sandy Graves, president of the nonprofit foundation. “(It’s) in keeping with what Heritage Park wants.”
The foundation has been working to raise money to build an amphitheater or band shell at the park and also a “Heritage Walk.” The latter would commemorate area pioneers and help keep local history alive. Both features have been incorporated into the county’s plans for the renovated park.
Although the community center building itself will stay the same, the grounds around it will be transformed to offer more parking, a new concession and restroom building, the possibility for two playgrounds, a trail and an area where the amphitheater could be built by the foundation. In the meantime, a concrete pad will serve as a stage area for community concerts and the such. Renovation plans call for enhanced playing fields, as well.
Courtesy of a partnership with Pasco County Schools, the park will also offer residents basketball courts, an additional grassy field and extra parking during the weekend and evening hours. The school district has agreed to give residents access to part of Sanders Memorial Elementary School’s grounds during the off hours if the school can enjoy greater access to the park during the day.
“The goal is to do something that’s good for Pasco County,” explained John Petrashek, director of construction services and code compliance for Pasco County Schools. “It just makes sense to work together.”
To ensure student safety, a rolling fence is incorporated into the design. This will lock down the school campus during the day and provide access to the playing fields, extra parking and basketball courts during the off hours without enabling residents to get onto the full campus itself.
The partnership features have been built into the school’s design. Construction to rebuild Sanders, however, is on hold until population growth demands that a new school be placed on the historic site, Petrashek said.
The estimated costs of the park renovations fall in around $1.8 million. Construction remains unscheduled. The parks department is waiting to see what its budget will look like next year.
County Commissioner Pat Mulieri said a clearer picture of the parks department budget won’t be available until later this summer. The county is just starting to wrestle with the figures for its 2011-12 budget, which includes an estimated $5 million shortfall.
The next step for the park plans is to finalize them and submit them to the county for approval, said Rick Buckman, parks and recreation director.