A special public meeting was held Tuesday, March 2 before the regular Gulfport City Council meeting about the fate of the Tomlinson Lake Park skate park, which was indefinitely closed recently. Big news came swiftly when the members of council unanimously voted to apply for a land and water conservation fund grant, allowing the park to relocate the to the Michael J. Yakes Recreation Center.
“The deadline for application is at the end of March,” City Manager Jim O’Reilly said. “So we need to do this now.”
The idea to move the skate park to the Rec Center was discussed just two weeks ago at the February 16 meeting. On Tuesday night, the public was encouraged to comment on the matter.
“We wish we had one locally,” Casey Steindl, 12, said during the public comments. “My dad and I wish we had a skate park … and have some father-son bonding time.”
According to O’Reilly, the current skate park is no longer viable for use and has “aged out.” According to a memo from the city of Gulfport, the ramps at the Tomlinson Lake skate park have “reached their normal life expectancy and are in need of replacement.”
In lieu of that information, the city has unanimously decided to apply for the grant worth $62,500. In order to use the grant, the city would have to match the money, which, according to O’Reilly, would come out of the Penny for Pinellas tax, bringing the total on the project to $125,000.
“I support it; let’s seek the grant,” Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman said.
But not all citizens of Gulfport were in favor of the idea.
“I’m just a little concerned about where all that money is coming from,” resident Rachael Plank said. “I’m not opposed to moving the skate park; I’m actually opposed to the skate park in general … I don’t disagree that the children need a place to go, but I don’t know that the skate park is the answer … I think there’s a better use of our taxpayer dollars.”
Once the skate park is moved from Tomlinson Lake Park, the space left would be “reconfigured to a more neighborhood-oriented park and playground for various age groups – consisting and ranging from young toddler play equipment to adult orientated exercise equipment,” according to the city memo. The timetable for this will be completed in October, O’Reilly says.
If awarded, the grant funds will not be available until July 2017.
Councilmember Michael Fridovich, representative of Ward 4 where the skate park is located, will be holding a town hall meeting before the end of March to gauge resident’s concerns and suggestions on the moving of the park and redeveloping of the remaining land at Tomlinson Park.
“I would like to hear from people who live in the fourth ward,” Fridovich said. Information on that meeting will be announced soon.
O’Reilly also assured council that a segment of the BP money has been set aside for Tomlinson Lake Park.
BP money was on the agenda again during the regularly scheduled council meeting.
Council approval was needed to transfer funds from the BP money, which is now part of the general fund, to the capital improvement plan to fund the paving of 28th Avenue South. The total amount transferred is $400,000.