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Jaycee Park design needs to find a middle ground

By Staff | Mar 28, 2024

To the editor:

After attending the Jaycee Park plan review open house and listening to the many views of the public I will distill what I heard and add my viewpoint.

On the surface there are two sides. The first is what the city proposes, and the other is the leave the park alone side. We need for the city to listen to the people. When speaking with the save the park people they want a place of solitude where one can look out over the river waters and relax in the quiet beauty of the park. This would be a classic viewpoint summed up by the famous park designer Fredrick Law Olmsted. Olmsted believed parks functioned as the “lungs of the city,” offering spaces that could foster physical and mental well-being… he saw the need to restore people’s connection to nature. This is what the people are asking for.

This park will change. So let’s make sure it grows into something that still retains the features that make it a place of relaxation.

First to go would be the boat docks. One gentleman that lives nearby and watches the river daily mentioned that with the current of the river, the winds and the chop of the water docking a boat into the slips would be very difficult if not impossible in most conditions. Let’s also consider if the public wants a view of the river, they don’t want to see boats and a harbor. Throw in the cost of maintenance and the potential destruction from a hurricane we should remove it as a design element. What is the cost carve out for the 24 boat slips?

Second to go would be the food trucks and the bistro. Not everybody wants the smell of food and the sound of generators overwhelming the smell of vegetation and the sound of the wind rippling through the trees. If people want to picnic, they can bring food in. Food trucks generate a lot of food waste (animals) and trash. Very high maintenance and if not picked up diligently, will be a health issue. Why do we need food trucks?

The third issue was the removal of the trees. As I listened it was more about shade than removing the Australian pines. According to some, the trees protect the buildings during hurricanes. This may have been true in past years but according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife with their shallow surface roots these trees tend to topple in high winds. As the trees age, it’s just a matter of time before they topple. The people don’t want these large mature trees removed and replaced with 10-foot nothing trees that will take forever to grow. This is manageable with other trees that will withstand hurricanes and provide shade. Live oaks can grow 2- to 2-1/2 feet per year. Yes it will take five to 10 years for the tree to develop a nice shade canopy but once established, will last for centuries. Other shade producers are gazebos, arbors that are laced with vines and flowers. All landscape features that could blend in.

Parking and traffic and how it will interface with pedestrians were a big concern. There will be increased traffic as the park serves more people. There are many ways to isolate the pedestrians from cars by using landscape buffers and designated walkways. This can be managed with raised berms and layered vegetation.

Finally, my personal complaint is the “Band shells.” Sorry, the design shows nothing more than restrooms with an extended roof. This is not a “shell” nor is the design conducive to a music performance. The presenter told me that this was only a 30% concept and that the directive from the city was for it to look a certain way. Sometime you have form and then there is function. My tip to the designers is to go to the website Archdaily.com/how-acoustic-shells-work-and-how-to-design-them-effectively and take notes. What is shown is a pavilion. It will absolutely not work as a performance platform and deliver quality sound directed at a crowd. If one reads the article it will instantly become apparent that this is strictly a looks only building without function. Worse yet is that any performers will have to really ramp up the volume for it to project out of this building which will send noise in all directions including towards the residences nearby. A shell directs the sound to the audience at minimal volume.

Seating benches would be nice for the older folks that can’t sit on the ground. Elevation for the spectators is also a must so a hill needs to be created. Elevations create visual dimension and retreat spaces.

Let’s remember that parks need places for older folks not just playgrounds. Some people like to just get out of doors and enjoy what nature has provided. This park design needs to incorporate botanical elements and not make it a giant playpen.

So here is my challenge to the city. Will you listen to what the people are saying, or just plow ahead and create a high-maintenance space full of architecturally annoying features that the citizens do not want or create a place of tranquility as it stands today?

There is much opposition to this park design. Is anybody for the bistro, food trucks and boat slips, other than food truck owners and boat slip builders? Please respond to add balance to this discussion. If you respond and are a food truck owner please add a disclaimer.

Not every Cape Coral park needs to be an amusement park.

J. Caplin

Cape Coral