Gulfport city officials pondering potential improvements to the Tangerine Greenway invited residents to offer their suggestions at a Thursday, June 9 meeting at the 49th Street Neighborhood Center.
Despite the small turnout – only about a dozen Gulfport residents – there were plenty of ideas at the meeting, which was hosted by Community Development Director Fred Metcalf and two consultants hired by the city of Gulfport to solicit suggestions and create a conceptual master plan.
Attendees at the hour-long meeting generally agreed they did not want major changes to the greenway, but rather enhancements to what is already there. They also said the city had neglected their sector in favor of other neighborhoods, and that investment in the greenway could create an alternative attraction to downtown Gulfport and help boost their property values.
“We’re spending money all over the city except for this area,” said Phil Reed of the 49th Street South Business Association. “It has to be done.”
There is no guarantee that any investment will actually take place, but Metcalf told the group that in order to apply for grants the city needs a plan of what it wants to accomplish. A previous effort to improve the sector eight years ago came to naught, Metcalf said. The city is using brownfields-assessment money to pay for the conceptual plan to promote the new push.
The Tangerine Greenway is a historic area where the trolley once ran between St. Petersburg and Gulfport. It stretches from 49th Street South to where it t-bones into Tomlinson Park at 54th Street South. The blocks closest to 49th Street are semi-commercial and used for events like the Tangerine Blues Festival, Saturday market and classic car show. The balance is residential and includes a short trail.
“We don’t want anything commercial down in that [residential] area,” said 50-plus-year-resident Miki Vaughan, summarizing the view of all those present. “It’s nice as a park.”
The greenway is studded with leafy trees and benches are scattered throughout. It is used by walkers, joggers, bike riders, dogs and children, and by ducks and other birds when its swales fill with water during heavy rains.
Suggestions by residents included building a covered structure in the semi-commercial area to be used for events, providing electrical outlets and shade for vendors, building a more enticing entrance off 49th Street and encouraging new businesses such as a coffee or ice cream shop or a spice store.
Other requests were more modest, such as placing benches in the shade instead of the sun and moving them far away from the trash cans, keeping cars from parking on the grass in residential areas, fixing pot holes in the road, and adding picnic tables and more dog-friendly amenities.
Metcalf said the consultants, Ryan Givens of Cardno Inc., and Chris Anuszkiewicz of PlaceMaker Design Studio, LLC, would have a preliminary plan for residents to review before September 30.
As for the city’s effort to make it a reality, he said: “We’ll keep trying.”