Zephyrhills’ largest, and most beloved, park is moving toward an upgrade.
But first, the city needed to reassure the public that plans had not yet been decided. City officials had to set the record straight because rumors were flying after an old rendering of renovations to Zephyr Park was shared on social media — sending the town into a tizzy.
Residents packed the City Council Room at Town Hall on April 27 to share their concerns and their desires for the park — with worries expressed about the potential for diminishing and dismissing the history associated with the 34-acre park on Fifth Avenue.
Zephyr Park is a popular gathering place for locals, featuring the Alice Hall Community Center, five lighted tennis courts, handball, fishing, picnic pavilions with picnic tables, barbecue grills, horseshoe pits, playground equipment, and a 5/8-mile lakeside fitness path. Some of its trees date back to the Civil War era.
And here is a community consensus improvements are needed at the park. But speakers raised concerns about the possibility of the Veterans Memorial being removed from the park.
Gail Hamilton, director of Community Redevelopment Agency, and other city officials, including City Manager Billy Poe, squashed that and other rumors circulating because of the social media post.
Hamilton and Poe assured the crowd the Veterans Memorial will not be removed, but said it likely will be upgraded when the park renovations occur.
Poe said there had been some talk about moving the memorial to nearby Veterans Memorial Park, but he added that was only talk — no plan had been made to move it.
Another rumor involved the potential loss of the park’s five tennis courts at Zephyr Park. Poe refuted that, too.
“I’m just going to say it right out, nothing is happening to the memorial or the tennis courts,” Poe said. “They’re not going anywhere.”
Speakers also expressed their desires for the park’s upgrade. They’d like to see updates to Alice Hall, the restrooms and the splash pad.
Other suggestions include new amenities such as an adaptive playground, a disc golf course and a snack bar or recreational club room at Alice Hall.
They’d also like to see more amenities geared for older youth and teens, better park maintenance and an increased police presence at the park.
Hamilton said planning for the park’s upgrade is at the beginning stage — starting with finding out the community’s current desires.
“We hear you,” she assured the crowd. “We also see you with this turnout today at this input meeting, and we appreciate the passion of this community for this park.”
The artist rendering shared on social media was done several years and never reached fruition because of higher priorities, economic conditions and COVID-related issues.
City officials do have a budget in mind — as they requested $5 million in grants from the state — but were mainly focused on their new park project: Hercules Park, the other nearly $5 million project that will be adjacent to Woodland Elementary and behind the WaWa gas station on Gall Boulevard.
City and park planning officials want to be on the same page as to what should be done at Zephyr Park, as well as making sure none of it overlaps at Hercules Park.
Officials want to make sure having the same or similar amenities at both or either parks makes sense. However, they say further study and public input is needed, all of which will come over time and “several, several more meetings,” Hamilton added.
“This is not a shovel-ready project,” Hamilton said. “It’s not even really a ‘ready’ project because we are looking for more input. That’s where we are right now — looking for input from you (the residents).”
Published May 17, 2023