The need for additional recreational opportunities rang out loud and clear during a joint session of elected Pasco County leaders and those from municipalities on the east side of the county.
Zephyrhills Mayor Billy Poe noted: “We’ve seen such large growth on the east side of Pasco and the development of Pasadena Hills. The question has come up several times about the possibility of a regional park on the east side of Pasco, possibly along (U.S.) 301, so both Dade City and Zephyrhills benefit from it, (as well as) San Antonio and St. Leo.”
Pasco County Commissioner Seth Weightman said he’s interested in increasing aquatic opportunities — for competitive swimmers and for other swimmers, too.
Weightman said he’s talked to county staff about the issue, noting there’s no community pool east of U.S. 41, aside from the YMCA and St. Leo.
He said an aquatics center, which could accommodate competitive swimming, could benefit the county’s tourism efforts. But he also noted that it is important to provide an opportunity for people to learn how to swim.
“Folks moving into our county — they need to know how to swim. It’s a quality of life and safety factor,” Weightman said.
The county board member said he fully supports “some kind of a recreational center with an aquatics component — a significant aquatics component.”
He also noted it might behoove the county and its cities to work together on creating an aquatics center, instead of developing competing facilities.
Keith Wiley, who oversees the Pasco County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources department, said his team greatly desires addressing the aquatic needs on the east side of the county.
He noted there are plans to move forward with a super park in the Village of Pasadena Hills, which is in the Wesley Chapel area.
Wiley said he plans to recommend that the super park become home to a community pool.
“I think it’s an outstanding opportunity to talk to the school board for the possibility of a partnership because (at) the two pools the county does operate, we see a lot of activity from the high school swim teams. And, I think, quite honestly, they have some skin in the game,” Wiley said.
He also told the elected leaders that Pasco’s parks department is working on a master plan to define a recreational trail system.
“The idea is to really be high-level, to ultimately figure out what our trail system looks like,” he said. The planning will cover such things as prioritizing connections through greenways, near existing state and county-owned properties, and recognizing hubs of concern, he said.
This planning is separate from work being done to establish an alignment for the Orange Belt Trail.
On another note, the county parks department is teaming up with the City of Dade City on a feasibility study related to park facilities located in the areas of Lacoochee, Trilby, Villages of Pasadena, Naomi S. Jones Park, Burks Park, and the James Irvin Civic Center.
Dade City Manager Leslie Porter told the elected leaders: “The James Irvin Civic Center is located in Naomi Jones Park. It was built in the 1960s and has served its useful life. The city is currently partnering with the county. We’re conducting a feasibility study for park facilities in East Pasco County.
“One of the deliverables from the study will be a schematic design, with preliminary engineering and landscape planning for a new community center,” she said.
Porter also noted: “We would hope to continue our partnership with the county, providing the recreational services. Currently, the county offers the programming there, as well as with the Armory. We don’t have the staffing at the city level to do that.”
Dade City Commissioner Angel Woodard told those gathered: “I would just like to stress the importance of why we are trying to construct a new facility.
“When you have a building that’s been built in 1960 and one addition to that building took place in 1992 — and, it is not sufficient for the community.
“We don’t have anywhere on the east side of the county, on a cold night, to even up to bring our homeless in.
“We don’t have anywhere, on this side of the county, during the COVID crisis, to hold funerals.
“This is vitally important that we stand together to move forward to create a community center.
“One of the biggest things that I hear, over and over again, is ‘We have nowhere for our children to go.’
“And, that needs to change,” Woodard said.
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey mentioned that the community center project might be a good candidate for federal funding. She recommended that city officials look into that.
Pasco County Commission Chairman Mariano suggested this could be something that the county and city worked on together.
Published February 15, 2023