Joint meeting provides key ideas to move park project in the right direction
A joint workshop with members of City Council and the city’s Parks and Recreation Board produced ideas and concerns over what could become key elements of Hercules Park.
The workshop, held to review very preliminary visions of the park, brought the two organizations together to begin to craft the next stage of planning for the historic piece of property near the intersection of US 301 and County Road 54.
Zephyrhills is known as the “City of Pure Water,” so a water feature of some kind was a consensus choice to the plans. The plans, developed by consultants Kimley Horn, featured an innovative playground, an open space for recreation, a BMX/Mountain Bike track, walking paths and pavilions. Plans also called for historical signage and art features. One obvious omission from the plan was restrooms.
After going around the room and hearing from the members of City Council and the Parks and Recreation Board, most were in agreement that the bicycle track that was planned under the canopy of trees on 5.3 acres of the park needs to be scaled down or eliminated from the plan.
“That’s a big chunk of the park,” said councilman Alan Knight. “Three acres is a big chunk. Maybe go down to two or do something else.”
Hercules Park was the home of the Hercules Aquatic Center, a county-owned and operated pool that was closed down for budgetary reasons. A new pool doesn’t appear to be an option on the table because of the expense for construction and maintenance.
“I encourage city council to stay away from the pool business,” City Manager Billy Poe said.
While a pool doesn’t appear to be in the plan, the water feature where children could play was a popular idea that the consultants will build into the next set of preliminary plans.
“I was extremely underwhelmed by the plans when I first saw them,” said Councilman Lance Smith. “We are the City of Pure Water. We need a water feature.”
Knight added that the park should have a band shell where local artists can perform or bands can play concerts.
Parks board member Christian Ryman pointed out that he travels 90 minutes with his family to enjoy the parks in Mount Dora and Zephyrhills could be a park destination with the proper elements. Fellow board member Tracy Mahon said there are great examples of successful parks including Publix Park in Lakeland where there are plenty of walking areas, spectacular playgrounds and shade areas.
In the public comment section of the meeting, Linda Kerns of Main Street Zephyrhills said the city needs to take a broader look at the city’s parks.
“What are we doing with the other parks” Kerns said. “We need to look at the big picture.”