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City staff to come back with modified Jaycee Park concept plan

Cape Council reaches consensus on possible design elements, amenities to be included

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Sep 15, 2023

Cape Coral City Council directed the interim city manager on Wednesday to come back with another concept design for Jaycee Park, incorporating community surveys which would not preclude anything currently proposed from being included.

After lengthy Council discussion and some contentious citizen input, the design plan homed in on five topics on which Council came to a consensus — food, alcohol, band shell, splash pad and boat docks. Although the majority on Council was on favor for all five topics, a handful were against serving alcohol. Those included Council members Patty Cummings, Tom Hayden and Jessica Cosden.

“I have liked the idea of making improvements at Jaycee. The concept was good, but I had some concerns,” Cosden said. “The deal breaker for me and it keeps bothering me is selling alcohol at this park. It will be a deal breaker for me.”

Councilmember Bill Steinke said although he is not in favor of a full-fledge bar, in almost every city event they do, they roll in a beer or wine truck.

Overall, Council was in favor of adding amenities to the park, with a few hesitations on how that would play out with a few of the concepts.

Councilmember Keith Long said this has been a project he has been happy to support. He said he considers himself relatively young with young children who utilize a lot of parks in the city.

As a parent, who has other friends as parents, he enjoys finding places to gather. Jaycee Park provides a concept for that.

“We get conflicting generations, I think. There is a spirited discussion on both sides. The concept itself sticks,” Long said.

What he was not comfortable moving forward with was a plan as a half measure. He said the core component dies if such things as the food trucks, splash pads and bistro are eliminated.

“That to me is the core to the whole decision, — do we want to strip it down to millions on sidewalks and waterfront and have no other draws to come in and appreciate?” Long said. “Put infrastructure and wait and see if the food trucks come and make a heck of a lot of noise, providing these pads alleviate that issue.”

Before the Council began its discussion, the chambers filled with residents who wished to voice their concerns about the proposed improvements. Throughout the almost two dozen speakers, green space and keeping the quaint space the way it is was voiced over and over again.

Councilmember Tom Hayden said he has taken notice of the public input — 5,000 signatures that are opposed to the proposed changes to Jaycee Park; the 200 to 300 emails he has received; phone calls and participation of those who spoke at the Wednesday morning workshop for the full 60 minutes allotted to citizen input.

“I don’t think it does fall on deaf ears. We are probably going to disagree on the overall concept. I like the idea of enhancing the park. For me it is a destination place. You are making a trip for a specific reason,” he said.

Elimination of shade was among the concerns brought forth from the community, as the proposed changes include eliminating the Australian pines from the shoreline. The towering pines, planted years ago, are now considered an invasive species.

“I am for some type of improvement to benefit everyone in the city. One thing I am for is shade. A lot of these parks are brand new, but no one wants to go there because there is no shade,” Councilmember Dan Sheppard said. “I know and witnessed the trees we are trying to save is invasive. The county and city spend millions of dollars to eradicate that particular tree (Australian pine).”

He said he is for what the citizens want, but the city is cleaning up the environment and spending tax dollars to stop the pines from spreading because it is doing damage to wildlife and the ecosystem.

“They are producing the seeds that are blowing across the city and starting new ones. Growing seems like an endless cycle,” said Sheppard, who is a palm tree farmer.

Councilmember Bills Steinke said shade studies are available and used a lot, as they can see what the difference would be between an Australian pine compared to another tree that would be its replacement.

Public Forum update

Assistant city manager Connie Barron took Council through a lengthy presentation that outlined an Aug. 31 forum, as well as the community survey. She said the forum at Mercola Market had topic related stations staffed by city employees and representatives from Pennonni, as well as a 2-mintue concept video. Feedback cards were also distributed with some questions concerning timelines, financials, Australian pines, shade and heat, traffic, noise, environmental impacts and memorial benches answered.

The forum attracted 217 residents who went through and 244 written comment cards, as some attendees wrote on more than one card.

Of those 217 comments, 136, or 62% were opposed, 55, or 25% were in support, or partially supported the plan and 26, or 12% just had questions about the plan.

Some of the focus for partial support stemmed around disliking the north parking, bar, bandshell, boat docks and food trucks.

There was lower-than-expected participation with 1,495 submissions, 1,069 of which had comments, for the community survey.

Those who took the survey had the opportunity to supply their selection for specific amenity choices, such as shade trees, signature trees, bistro design, food choices, other shade, yard games, splash pad, dog cooling station, pathway lights and trail markers. Only 959 participated in the amenity choices, 64 percent of the participants.

Next steps

Interim city manager Michael Ilczyszyn said the whole plan for the concept was to go to the community and get feedback. He said they can either ignore the input or create a different concept and then vote on allowing to design it.

“We created a concept and brought it to the community and got feedback,” he said, adding that there are some things to consider and incorporate those elements and go back to the design firm to make those tweaks and then come back with the final concept.

Barron said Pennonni was expecting to hear from her Wednesday, as far as what direction Council would like to take. She said the concept will take about two weeks to develop and come back to Council.