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Tropicana Park  development plans move forward

By Staff | Jun 2, 2020

After weeks of debate and dissension, Cape Coral City Council has moved forward with development plans for Tropicana Park.

After much discussion that included a number of new alternatives, council approved 7-1 the amended version of the park concept plan it had approved last month, adding space — and costs — for water sports, expanding the beach area along the waterfront and deleting plans for a children’s splash pad.

At least in theory.

Officially, the resolution passed simply approved $165,000 in additional costs to come from the General Fund from revenue from the sale of surplus properties.

That is expected to cover a portion of the additional cost, which will include more pavement, additional land and other ancillaries for the facility last budgeted at $2.97 million, with the funds to come from voter-approved bond financing for the city’s $60 million parks master plan.

Among the physical changes will be the drop-off only area in the parking lot by the walkway that goes to the kayak launch; making sure the plans shows a kayak launch on the drawing; and a separation of the two docks going north and south and east and west. Also, a road that was added after council’s May 11 workshop consensus was removed, according to Kerry Runyon, Parks and Recreation director.

Council on Monday continued to debate concepts from the dais in discussion that came so fast and furious that it became, at times, hard to follow.

Even when it came time to vote, City Attorney Dolores Menendez had to ask more than once what, exactly, the motion would be when it finally came time for a vote.

That’s when Councilmember Rick Williams, the dissenting vote, finally said he’d had enough, considering that council has spent more time on Tropicana Park than the other parks in the master plan combined.

“Why can’t we leave this to the professionals? Why are we doing this up here? Why are we reinventing the wheel? Has anyone asked a rower of what they need? This is insanity,” Williams said. “We asked what they wanted in the park and the Northwest Neighborhood Association got most of what they wanted. Let’s stand by our vote in December.”

At the center of the debate has been the Northwest Neighborhood Association’s opposition to what its says are major changes made to the park footprint since the city held its park-by-park public input sessions in advance of the bond referendum. The issue at Tropicana has been modifications to provide space for water sports organizations that provide rowing and other programs, which the association has categorized as giving “private organizations” space in a public park.

This go-around, citizens input was heavily slanted toward Tropicana, with many of them rowers and kayakers who wanted the plan council approved 7-1 on May 11.

Modifications made again by council during a May 18 workshop, following the changes they had made on May 11 and tentatively approved, suddenly made it more difficult for water sports to be executed at the park, eliminating a staging area and adding a road critics said served no purpose to anyone.

Those sentiments were expressed by Saundra Weston, president of the newly-named Cape Coral Rowing Club, who said the road pushed the park to the west, making it more difficult to access the water, and cut down on green space.

“We should be in the corner where there is a pre-existing buffer and it provides a staging area for rowers to adjust their seats. Now, it’s been pushed too far to the west,” Weston said.

Despite Monday’s vote, Williams didn’t seem to believe that this would be the end of the debate, that once again the NWNA, which has opposed the presence of boating clubs from the beginning, would push for more compromise until there is no compromise at all.

“This will go on. We’ll be here next week doing this,” Williams said. “How many times are we going to go around in circles?”

Williams was the lone dissenting vote, as he was with tabling approval for the splash pad, now moved to at Joe Stonis Park, until budget time when the city knows where it is financially post COVID -19.

Councilmember John Gunter was concerned about the cost of the splash pad, that could cost as much as $500,000.

The removed, moved, now tabled for future discussion splash pad amenity was to be funded with GO bond dollars. That money may only be used for park improvements.