EAST NAPLES — For years, Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala has pushed for a community center at Eagle Lakes Park in East Naples.
Finally, she's received the news she's been waiting for.
Collier commissioners this past month approved construction of the community center at Eagle Lakes as part of the countywide parks and recreation master plan. But some maneuvering was needed to come up with the initial $2.1 million for the project.
"We have a number of community parks in Collier County and not one of them is without a community center, except for this one, the place that needed it the most," Fiala said. "There are so many underprivileged children that will benefit from this."
Barry Williams, director of Collier County's parks and recreation department, said design work could begin as soon as May 1. Construction is expected to start in spring 2013, with the new community center at Eagle Lakes to open in spring 2014.
"After the (commission) approved the parks and recreation master plan, building a community center and pool at that location was one of the top priorities," Williams said.
But for supporters of the Eagle Lakes project, it isn't yet a full-scale victory.
The $2.1 million budgeted for construction of the community center doesn't include the additional $1.5 million it would cost to include a swimming pool.
"It doesn't have a pool yet, but that is what we'll be pushing for next," Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala said. "These kids don't have a pool in their backyard. We're hoping to get that money before the center is finished."
"It doesn't have a pool yet, but that is what we'll be pushing for next," Fiala said. "These kids don't have a pool in their backyard. We're hoping to get that money before the center is finished."
The approval for the project didn't come without one final hurdle. The county had applied for a federal Community Development Block Grant to pay for a portion of the community center. In late March, the commission approved a recommendation to swap the grant money to Eagle Lakes from an Immokalee South Park project.
"Basically, what we did was switch the funds," Commissioner Jim Coletta said. "The grant that was for Eagle Lakes was for a low-income neighborhood ... Immokalee lost nothing, and Eagle Lakes is going to be kept on schedule."
Construction of the Eagle Lakes center is part of the county's growth management plan that outlines a strategy for future park sites and improvements to six current parks.
Eagle Lakes and development of Big Corkscrew Island Regional Park were deemed priorities by commissioners and community members involved in the master plan process.
"Those were the two projects that really stood out," Williams said.
While Eagle Lakes is moving full-speed ahead, the Big Corkscrew Island project remains stalled. It initially stalled a couple of years ago because a water treatment plant was going in the area. The plant since has been completed, but the price tag for the project is too expensive, at least for now.
"We do have 100 percent construction documents to build the park, but we don't have funding," Williams said. "It's going to cost somewhere between $9 million and $11 million."
The county has identified seven other priorities in the master plan, including the development of Manatee Community Park in East Naples, increasing beach access at Vanderbilt Beach and building the Vanderbilt Extension Community Park in North Naples. But currently, those projects don't have money available to do them.
Williams said there's also a need to construct more athletic fields in the community.
"The master plan definitely identified the need for athletic fields in the north and east ends of the county and in Immokalee," Williams said. "We have concentrations where there is a lot of use, so having more athletic fields would certainly be to our benefit."