Jessica Brenner shares what she believes should be in the City of Tampa’s Parks & Recreation Master Plan. (Photo: John C. Cotey)

Just a smattering of people, most from outside the New Tampa area, showed up at Freedom High School in Tampa Palms on Nov. 18 to share their visions of how Tampa’s parks should look and what they should offer.

Citywide, though, the response apparently has been better.

Nearly 200 residents have attended public input meetings at other locations in an effort to shape the city’s Parks & Recreation Master Plan.

“This was one of the lesser-attended meetings, but we have gotten a good response so far,” said Paul Dial, the city’s director of Parks & Recreation.

The meeting in the Freedom High cafeteria drew only a handful of people, including District 7 City Council member Luis Viera. The attendees stood up to tell Dial and Brad Suder, the Parks & Recreation department’s superintendent of planning and design, some of the things they would like to see in the future.

There were some common themes, like native plants, environmental classes and other educational services, as well as more programming.

Zulema Ramos said she’d like to see the parks stay open 24 hours a day, and offer classes on things like CPR training and how to fix your bike. Jessica Brenner thought more fruit trees would be beneficial, and could even help feed the homeless, for whom she feels the parks should provide more amenities.

Dave Coleman hoped that future park development would preserve the green spaces, and not become a place for fancy cafés to thrive at the expense of old-fashioned picnics.

“Keep the parks free,” he said.

Tampa Palms’ Steve Falkowitz suggested more spaces for smaller events. He said Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park on N. Boulevard is great for big events, but the addition of parks that could accommodate smaller venues would be worth adding to the long-range plan.

The poor local turnout was not a surprise. New Tampa is not exactly known for its abundance of publicly-funded parks, and just a few paces south and west of Freedom High, an addition to the New Tampa Recreation Center is being built, ending a long-sought-after request by local residents.

Viera, however, did press Dial and Suder to continue trying to work on a long-proposed park in the K-Bar Ranch area. Efforts by the city and Hillsborough County to get together and build something on the 50 acres of available land in K-Bar have so far failed to materialize.

“Hopefully, you can keep reaching out to the county and make that happen,” Viera said. 

Viera also said the New Tampa Nature Park near I-75 could use some TLC, as well.

Dial said much of the feedback the parks department has received so far involve neighborhood parks, security and lighting, environmental concerns and trails and connectivity.

The public input meeting was the fourth of eight scheduled citywide. There is one remaining meeting — at Wayne Papy Athletic Complex (6925 N. Florida Ave.) at 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 5.

Dial encourages those who cannot attend the public meetings to fill out an online survey at SurveyMonkey.com/r/ParksAndRecPublicInput. All of the public input will be passed on to the consulting firm that will be putting the master plan together. The city is in the process of choosing the consulting firm by the end of the year.

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