Lake Park, north Hillsborough's longtime site of BMX, archery, horseback riding and picnics, and lately a hot air balloon festival, is the focus of a plan to make sure such activities will have a home for decades to come.
Hillsborough County parks officials are working on a deal to buy the park land, which the county has leased from the city of St. Petersburg since the 1960s. Meantime, a north Tampa developer has donated a piece of land that will be a crucial link in a future Greenways Trail leading to the park.
The County Commission last week okayed two proposals that could result in buying the land from St. Petersburg, which draws drinking water from wells on the site.
The relationship has worked for both governments for years, with Hillsborough getting recreational use and St. Petersburg getting a steady flow of water. But Kurt Gremley, acquisition manager for the county's Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program, said the county wants a permanent deal.
"Lake Park has been used as a recreation facility for quite some time," Gremley said. "And there's always the potential that someday in the future they could sell it and that the property could be developed."
Gremley said the county is prepared to make two offers. One is to to buy the park outright with the understanding that wellheads would be restricted to the outer edges of the property. With this option, the county could use $3-million in grant money from the Florida Communities Trust to help fund the purchase.
Alternatively, the county would pay about half of the market value for the property and allow future wells anywhere on the site, within reason.
"If they choose option one, they need an agreement between St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay Water and Hillsborough County for permanent restriction (of the wells)," Gremley said. "If it's option two, then we just work on getting the appraisal and that's it."
The city of St. Petersburg could choose either of the unsolicited offers, or reject them both.
The most recent appraisals pegged the land's value at between $5.5-million and $8.75-million. A new appraisal would be needed before proceeding. County officials hope the St. Petersburg City Council will consider the issue at its Sept. 7 meeting.
"We have a window of opportunity now," Gremley said.
Good news for Northdale residents came on Tuesday when Todd Taylor, the developer of Lakeshore Estates in Lutz, donated a half-acre parcel that will one day be used to link the Greenways Trail to Lake Park.
"I had told the trailways people that when I acquired the property for Lakeshore, I'd donate part of it to them," Taylor said. "I'm real big on making sure people can have full advantage of natural resources, so I was just trying to do my part and help a little."
The gesture was warmly welcomed by Northdale officials who envision the nature trail running from Ashwood Drive into the back of Lake Park, east of the Northdale Soccer Club fields.
"It was a significant coup," said Northdale property manager Diane Montgomery. "And the thing that makes it really cool is that when the Greenways goes through, you'll be able to actually walk from the soccer fields all the way up to Lake Park."
- Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 226-3464 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Source Citation:Mabe, Logan D. "Hillsborough to make offer for park." The St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, FL) (August 20, 2000): 7. Popular Magazines. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 14 Aug. 2009
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