Marco City Council to PRAC: Take a "fresh look" at Veterans Community Park

City councilor Charlette Roman, on behalf of the entire council, urged PRAC to take its time with the development of the park

Lisa Conley; 239-213-5308

The Marco Island Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) met Tuesday and once again discussed updating the Veterans Community Park 2009 Master Plan.

A bird's eye view illustration from 2009 shows a concept for Veterans' Community Park buildout.

The committee members have been talking about revising the plan since the summer when City Council honored their budget request of $250,000.

Yet at this point, some committee members believe it would be more beneficial for PRAC to scrap the outdated master plan and begin anew.

“To go back and try to modify (the master plan) is probably not a really good idea,” PRAC member Ron Rutledge said. “It’s just so far removed from how we’re currently using the park … that I’m just not sure how many elements in that master plan really fit.”

However, PRAC member Rich Lutz said it would be “foolish” for the committee to ignore the work that’s already been done.

“There was a plan built … in 2009 (and) we can’t ignore that,” he said. “I think they had a good basis and there’s a lot of good groundwork set there and for us to ignore that would be foolish on our end.”

PRAC moves forward with master plan update

Lutz also said the plan was always to develop the park into a beautiful amenity for the community, and it’s a shame that nothing has happened yet, especially since it’s been more than a decade since the city purchased the park.

“As a citizen, I look at it and say, ‘Mmm, I don’t think we did all of our deal.’ It’s time to move forward, folks,” Lutz said. “We’ve got to do something; we can’t just sit here.”

3 To Know: Revising Veterans Park master plan

PRAC member Meg Bonos said one of the most important things to consider is the fact that Veterans Community Park isn't just a space to host annual events such as the Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival or Christmas Island Style; it’s a space that can, and should, be used daily.

“I think some of the things that have been contemplated by the city … are one-time only events, and I think what we need to keep in mind is…what type of park do we want to create for everybody that it can be used every day,” she said. “You want a park that’s day-to-day, but also everlasting.”

File: Fans show their appreciation for the Ben Allen Band at the Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival.

Chair Carlos Portu agreed.

“Certainly I don’t think we wanted to invest $10 million for three events a year or even for an event that occurs once weekly for six months out of the year,” he said, although he noted the importance of improving the park in such a way that would benefit those big events. “I certainly don’t think that you walk by the park and routinely and see people utilizing (it) on any days other than those events, which is a shame.”

'We’ve got to get this done': PRAC pushes for development of Veterans Community Park

He also said the committee members should start to consider what a budget request to city council might look like since the 2018 fiscal year is quickly approaching.

“We should be dedicating a certain dollar amount to the gradual improvement of that park,” Portu said.

Marco Island City Council member Charlette Roman attended the meeting as a representative of the entire city council and cautioned PRAC against moving forward too quickly.

"Take a fresh look. Explore best practices, ideas of parks worldwide and not just plan for today, but plan for our community five and 10 years out," she said. "Think of the park also as integral to the entire town center. Time is on our the sense that there's no rush here. It's very important that we take our time to get our community back involved."

In other business

PRAC continued its discussion of spearheading a youth council.

City Council Vice-Chair Jared Grifoni first pitched the idea of creating a youth council at the Jan. 9 city council meeting; the purpose of the youth council would be to give students an opportunity to gain leadership skills and learn more about city government, he said. The students could also give city council insight into the issues that directly impact them.

Marco Island Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee begins work on new youth council

PRAC hosted a special workshop on April 12 to discuss the council, including its composition, mission and goals. PRAC will host a second special workshop to discuss the youth council at 4 p.m. May 2 in the City Council’s chambers

PRAC’s next regular meeting is 3 p.m. May 16 in the city council's chambers, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.