MARCO ISLAND — Members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee believe lightning detection at city parks is long overdue.
Greg West explained at Tuesday’s meeting that coaches use handheld lightning detectors for games at Winterberry Park, but their accuracy and ability to predict lightning strikes is dubious or nearly nonexistent.
Currently, three lightning detection systems exist on the island: Tommie Barfield Elementary, purchased by Collier County, Hideaway Beach and the Island Country Club. That leaves all city facilities and the beach without detection devices, Alex Galiana told the committee.
The Parks and Recreation Department plans to include a central detection system and at least three modules in its Capital Improvement Plan requests due to city council in May. The system’s hub would be located at the city’s Bald Eagle Drive government center.
From there, the central detector can send alerts up to two miles to remote modules. The range of detection can be set up to 20 miles from the central site.
The city is lucky, Galiana said, that Mackle Park, Winterberry Park and Veterans’ Park fall within the two-mile range. Marco’s YMCA and MICA’s Residents’ Beach also are within two miles of government center.
Although the city would not be looking for modules for the last two locations, it could be possible to arrange private purchase of modules that could be linked into the central system.
Park staff is looking at a system built by Thor Guard of Sunrise, Fla. The system predicts rather than detects lightning by monitoring electrostatic amounts in the atmosphere and calculating cloud to ground lightning probability. In comparison, detection systems are activated only after a strike has occurred. That event may be too late for Marco Island, members of the committee agreed.
Because the system can give a 20 minute or more warning in the event of potential lightning, it is used by many professional golf courses.
It’s a warning system that thwarts the “out of the blue” lightning strike and offers plenty of time for playing fields and community events to be evacuated, said Bryan Milk, Marco’s community affairs director.
Park staff estimated the central system cost at $22,000 with modules ranging from $4,000 to $5,000 each.
“From a liability standpoint, this is a no-brainer,” said Greg West, the committee’s vice chairman.
Galiana said a second capital project the purchase of fitness trail equipment is being discussed as a CIP request to council. The trail would consist of a number of exercise areas around Mackle Park’s lake along its .8-mile walking path.
The workout stations would be placed every 100 feet or so, Galiana said, with an apparatus and instructions at each station. Equipment for the trail would cost between $5,000 to $15,000 with aesthetics being the main price determiner.
On the low end, equipment would look like modular tubes, Galiana said. Higher-end equipment would simulate timber materials.
Milk will be holding a business plan presentation for Mackle Park’s proposed new building at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27, in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive. The presentation will include updated statistical information on programs and park usage. Financing for the building project also will be discussed.