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Residents continue to protest Jaycee Park changes

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Sep 15, 2023

JoAnne Harrison, who lives next to Jaycee Park attended Wednesday’s Cape Coral City Council workshop because of the anger she is feeling.

“All of you is what is wrong with the world today,” she said.

Harrison said the Council is average citizens elected for the purpose of fulfilling the needs of the people who voted them into office.

“You boldly, arrogantly, and absolutely ignore our voice. How dare you presume better for us. We know what we want and what we need. Shouldn’t you tell us whose goal you are trying to fulfill. You are seriously affecting our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Jaycee Park is a treasure to us. How dare you put us millions of dollars into debt for something we do not want. We do not want a band stand that will cause the loss of peace and quiet, hideous food trucks, concrete covering our soil and bar whose alcohol will bring with it smoking and not just cigarettes,” Harrison said. “We need Jaycee Park to stay a friendly neighborhood park for our children. Our children need this park in its natural state. There are not many places left like this.”

The main message from the citizens who turned out again this week was they wanted the green space to remain — the space that offers walking paths for exercise, trees for shade and, ultimately, a space to relax, mingle with others and become centered again.

“We know that development rules, real estate people have the upper hand. Seventy-five percent of us want green space. The people have spoken, we want green. Please find it within your soul and heart to vote for green to make this a beautiful city,” one man said.

Another said he found peace at Jaycee Park and met his wife there.

“I go there to pray, go sit by the river in the morning to pray. I won’t be able to do that if the trees are gone. Please hear what we are saying,” he said.

Another resident said she was sick to her stomach over what is going on at her quiet park.

“Our minds are open; our eyes are open, and we see what is going on here. Why would you want to dismantle this wonderful park and make it a destination? It is a park. It is nature,” she said, adding that the seniors of Cape Coral plan on holding the line here. “Why can’t we be flexible and work with the residents to find out what the true need of the park is/”

Mayor John Gunter said the city is going through a process with Jaycee Park, which involves discussions and a design to which Council allocated $800,000.

He also said it is a city park for all residents.

“I think that we are always looking at the city as a whole,” he said. “We represent all of the citizens of Cape Coral, the 215,000 plus. There are about 60 citizens, 20 to 22 that made comments. Take the 5,000 petitioners that you say you have collected so far, that is about 2.3 percent of the population here in Cape Coral. I’m not trying to minimize your input, I am putting it into perspective.”

Council’s eight members do not know the answers yet, as they are going through the process, he added.

“We are still moving forward. I don’t know where we are going to end up. For me personally, I will continue to say, we have to make sure we fulfill the 2018 GO Bond obligation first. Then for me personally, then we can look outside of that scope of work to see where else we want to improve the park system,” Gunter said.

Just because an item is on the city agenda does not necessarily mean it is something Council will support, he said.

“The Jaycee Park decision time is not here today,” Gunter said.

Councilmember Bill Steinke also shared a few comments after citizen input.

“The input that you give to us through emails and here through public comment, unless the eight of us are at this table we cannot discuss that,” he said. “We cannot talk behind the scenes (with) those emails and public comments that you give us. It all has to be done here. Just because it is on the agenda it doesn’t mean it is something we are approving; it means it is something we can discuss that we don’t get to discuss privately.”