MARCO ISLAND — If life on Marco Island is a stroll in the park, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board exists to make sure the citizens have nice parks in which to stroll.
The group’s meeting Tuesday afternoon was a bit of a stroll in the park, with no looming disasters, and generally good news on the city’s Parks & Rec programs reported by staff. With two other city meetings occurring simultaneously, using up available conference rooms, the parks board met upstairs at the Racquet Center. The meeting was chaired by Parks and Recreation Advisory Board chairman Paul Meyer, with Community Services Director Bryan Milk sharing the load, and bringing parks staffers in for updates.
Teen leader Lola Dial discussed the Parks & Rec teen program, in which volunteers, such as the Lely High School Key Club, volunteer to help with activities, including the holiday crafts and “Cookies and Milk with Santa” events held recently.
The Farmers’ Market at Veterans’ Community Park came up for discussion, with the news that booths at the event, 106 of them, are sold out for the year. Milk took pains to clarify that the $65,000 profit figure that has been reported for the market is gross, not net, and there are significant expenses and staff time that must be accounted for before arriving at the final number.
“The net is far less” with all the costs associated with the program, said Milk. “We’ll make 25 to $28,000 at the end of the day, and that’s if we don’t have to buy equipment.” Board member Cindy Love asked for a profit and loss statement.
Milk also noted that “we fired a few” vendors for causing disturbances, or “rallying the troops to raise prices,” and the city works with the Art League to bring in vendors who are local, and sell handcrafted, unique items – artists, potters, and photographers, for example.
“Quite frankly, it’s hard to get the locals out,” he said, adding that currently the makeup of vendors is 20 percent from Marco Island, 40 percent from elsewhere in Collier County, and 40 percent from Lee County.
To a suggestion that the Farmers’ Market could run year ’round, Milk and recreation supervisor Alex Galiana spoke of too much heat and rain, and not enough visitors and produce.
“We added a couple of weeks at each end,” said Galiana.
Also, said Milk, “we studied doing it two times a week, but hands down, the vendors are somewhere else.”
Meyer, who perhaps should be named “Oscar” instead of Paul, committed to personally running the hotdog concession for softball games at Winterberry Park, with the proceeds going to the city.
“Everything’s a buck,” he said. Love brought up possibly reinstating coed softball, which, she said, she personally started 11 years ago, and at one time had six to eight teams. Galiana said he had tried last year, and was only able to drum up a single team.
“If you don’t have four teams, you can’t schedule a league,” he said.
Milk brought up fundraising for the proposed new recreation center building at Mackle Park, saying he hopes for a public/private partnership to raise the approximately $4 million needed. He said if people wondered how the building, initially figured to be 20,000 square feet, became instead 38,000, there was a simple explanation.
“We brought the outdoor courts in, basketball courts plus an indoor track,” he said. “It can sustain tournament play, and accommodate an audience.” The city’s capital budget for the next five years has funds for the building, he said, and he is also looking for donations, grants, and offering naming rights.
Love closed the meeting with a paean to all the volunteers who brought the Wall That Heals to the island, saying how moving it was, educational for schoolchildren, and hoping the project’s organizers receive the recognition they deserve.
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 17.