Design concepts for Veterans Community Park mostly positive

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
This design shows one of two concepts developed by Kimley-Horn and Associates for Veterans Community Park.

After some initial push back to updating the Veterans Community Park master plan, preliminary concepts for the park have received mainly positive reviews.

Kimley-Horn and Associates presented the concepts for the master plan Tuesday during the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee’s meeting, giving the public another opportunity on weigh-in on the future of the park.

The concept meeting, which was well attended, even received praise from former members of the advisory committee that helped push forward the 2009 master plan.

“What you have done is magnificent,” Litha Berger said. “It is so close to this that I can’t believe it.”

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In 2009, a master plan was approved for the park after close to a year of gathering input from the community. Despite the intense outreach, the buildout languished, prompting the need to make sure the community needs and wants were the same.

Berger, who said she was “ready for war” in the event there was some crazy deviation, told the committee that old members were behind the new plan and would support it whenever it was presented to City Council.

The top four infrastructure improvements requested by the community were restrooms, a bandshell, increased shade and landscaping.

Ed Issler, another former committee member, however, raised questions about the amount of outreach done and the need for more involvement.

According to the Kimley-Horn team, only 31 people attended community meetings and 150 responded to surveys about the park.

“I just have a hard time accepting all these plans and these options with 31 public hearing attendees and 150 survey responses,” Issler said. “There’s nobody that knows more about this property than I do. I’ve been involved in it since 1999. There’s nobody that lives closer to this property than I do.”

Despite his proximity to the park, Issler said he never received a survey.

Although the outreach from the city was low this time, Marco Island Civic Association Executive Director Ruth McCann said its members were asked two questions in 2017 pertaining to support for a bandshell and restrooms and their preference between green space and new buildings.

McCann said the questions received more than 2,500 responses with the vast majority in support of a bandshell, bathrooms and open green space.

City Council Chairman Jared Grifoni said he was not concerned with the number of responses but rather if the plans reflect the character of the community.

“I think from a tertiary look at them you’ve done that,” Grifoni said.

Landscape architect James Pankinen said the next steps would be to take the two preliminary concepts that boil them down into one before taking comments again from the City Council and the community.

A final master plan would then be presented to council for approval.