Plan to transform Rio Vista Park slowly becoming a reality

By on July 27, 2012

On Wednesday evening, the City of St. Petersburg held a forum with the community to discuss progress on the Rio Vista public park project. After a year of planning and conversations and promises, the concept is slowly turning into a plan. The plan is to have the park a reality by summer’s end 2013.

The details are still a little fuzzy. The forum was hosted by Councilmember Jim Kennedy, and Councilmember Karl Nurse was present, also. Kennedy was sure that more input was needed, and the community seemed pleased to hear it.

“Nothing we have here is set in stone,” assured Kennedy. “We are looking for input. We intend to have at least two other public meetings.”

As for the first draft of the concept presented to the community, both City Architect Raul Quintana and Landscape Architect Hunter Booth of Graham-Booth Landscape Architecture did provide some details.

Quintana said that an open play area, a running trail, a fitness zone with equipment, tennis courts and a community flower garden are on in the development plans right now. They also intend to save some of the usable areas from the former school such as the basketball court, and a covered pavilion. Parking also would be extended from the existing lots.

Booth, described the park as being “passive” –not a destination for many scheduled activities such as those that would disrupt the surrounding neighborhood. The park will only be open during the daytime—no night hours. Therefore, there will not be a large baseball field or strong lighting for night activities, just lighting for security. Restroom facilities also are not planned for the site.

The renovation is projected to cost $1.6 million. Where is this money coming from?  Last year, the City Council approved the allocation of Weeki Wachee funds to build the Rio Vista Park along with funding resources to maintain the facility for 10 years.

The community was split between full support, especially from parents with school-aged children and others who voiced concerns about whether the city will maintain the park, concerns over security and not having restroom facilities, and concerns about what people, traffic and potential crime the park will attract.

Arguably, a well-maintained city park, such as those throughout the rest of St. Petersburg, is a huge improvement over the significant security problems inherent with a vacant, overgrown lot, which is what the property is at present.

The next meeting on the Rio Vista Park project has not been scheduled, allowing time for further planning in response to the community feedback from this session.

Via Daphne Taylor Street. You can reach Daphne at dts.streetmedia@gmail.com

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