Polly Touchton would be proud.
Ruth Embry “Miss Polly” Touchton is the namesake of the small, but beloved park in Dade City. She’s also the grandmother of Tom Touchton, a native of Dade City and the person spearheading a much-anticipated initiative for the park situated between Fifth and Seventh streets, and Bougainvillea and Southview avenues.
Touchton unveiled impressive renovation plans for the park during the May 23 Dade City Commission meeting. The project will completely redesign the park that hugs the Dade City Garden Club and greets drivers at the apex of U.S. 98 and Seventh Street.
“This could really become the jewel of the city,” Touchton said to the commissioners and a packed room of supporters, including many garden club members. “This park already welcomes you into the city and honors my family, which came to Dade City 125 years ago.”
The all-encompassing design for the improvements include rebuilding the iconic sign seen on Seventh Street. The biggest change, however, involves the installation of a small separation wall that essentially will split the park in half.
The wall is climbable for children and includes two sets of stairs that lead down to serpentine sidewalks. The park also will have swing benches and new picnic areas.
City commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the renovation plan.
It joins eight other projects, totaling about $30 million in city funds, that are currently in the works in Dade City.
The Touchton Renovation Project has a “budget (that) is an ongoing moving target with the addition of stormwater improvements,” according to Jason Warrenfeltz, the city’s public works director.
“We really wanted to keep the beauty and the trees of the park, which provide a nice canopy, and also some memorial trees and some of the oldest in the city,” Tom Touchton said. “For four generations now, my family has been involved in parks and projects in Dade City. It was important to me, with the park’s renovation, to recognize the positive influences and values of my family throughout my life here, as well as the examples they set through their civic and business contributions to Dade City over many decades.”
The park is named after “Miss Polly” Touchton, when the city named it in 1986. With the renovation, plaques will be installed giving the history of the Touchtons in Dade City, as well as honoring Tom’s grandparents — Polly and Charles Floyd Touchton Sr. — and his parents — Charles Jr. and Thelma Touchton.
More than 125 years ago, Tom Touchton’s great-grandparents arrived by train in Dade City, with eight kids in tow — seven boys and one girl, Polly.
Polly was a charter member of the Dade City’s Woman’s Club in 1909, a Red Cross volunteer in World War I, the longest surviving member (77 years) of the First Presbyterian Church of Dade City where she was a Sunday School teacher and, of course, also a charter member of the Dade City Garden Club.
The city commissioners were blown away by the redesign plans.
“I think this will beautify the gateway to the city,” Mayor Jim Shive said. “It’s already seen when you enter the city from U.S. 301 and now it will be an incredibly beautiful park to welcome people to Dade City.”
Fellow commissioner Ann Cosentino agreed.
“Seeing these plans and this presentation, it’s like Christmas morning all over again,” she said. “It’s just beautiful to see (the plans) laid out for us, and I think every Dade City resident is going to love it.”
Published June 07, 2023