By B.C. Manion
Plans are under way to improve the existing facilities and to add some new amenities at the Land O’ Lakes Community Center and adjacent park.
A meeting was scheduled last week to discuss the conceptual plans, but it was cancelled because of severe weather. A new meeting date will be scheduled to discuss the conceptual plans and to seek community feedback.
Plans for an estimated $2 million in improvements include a softball field, a football field, a sports practice area that’s about the size of a football field, and a building which includes a concession stand, restrooms and storage space, according to Rick Buckman, director of the Pasco County Parks and Recreation Department.
Plans also call for an open area for community get-togethers, an area designated for an outdoor stage, a paved perimeter walking path and paved parking.
The estimated $2 million cost for the project, at 5401 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., includes construction and design, according to an email from Buckman.
The timetable for the project is uncertain.
The county hopes it can create a partnership with Pasco County Schools on this project, which would involve an agreement for sharing space with Sanders Elementary, Buckman noted.
“For instance, the schools would use some park amenities during school hours and the general public would use some school amenities when school is not in session,” his email states. Doing that would help the county and the school district make the most efficient use of tax dollars.
The county’s design and construction work is paid for with impact fees, Buckman said. “Operational funding has not been identified; hence design is currently going through 30 percent,” he writes.
Operations and maintenance likely will be discussed this summer, he added. However, he also noted: “Continued reduction in property tax revenues has made it difficult to maintain current service levels.”
Despite the uncertain timetable for the project, Sandy Graves, president of the Heritage Park Foundation, said she’s pleased that progress is being made on planning improvements for the park.
The foundation is working to raise money for an outdoor stage, which Graves hopes will encourage gatherings where people can have good, old-fashioned fun.
“I’m very happy they’ve left a spot (on the plan),” Graves said. An architect who lives in the community already has offered to help with the stage’s design.
The group also wants to install historical markers along the planned pathway on the park’s perimeter.
Native Susan MacManus, who has deep knowledge of the community’s history, has agreed to provide the historical information needed for the project, Graves said.
Building a sense of community is important, Graves said. It has both tangible and intangible benefits, she said.
It helps fulfill a basic human need of fellowship, she said. It also helps create a sense of well-being, which ultimately has a positive impact on an area’s economic value, Graves said. People naturally gravitate to areas where their needs are being met, she said.