The $2.4 million renovation project at Land O’ Lakes Community Park, 5401 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., is just about completed. It features new fields, a playground, a concession stand and restrooms. There’s even a walking trail for walkers and joggers that goes around the park.
But there’s another improvement that gets Mike Walcott, a recreation supervisor for Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, really excited.
“I think the thing a lot of people are going to like is the paved parking,” Walcott said. “Because when you park in a dirt lot in the middle of July and you have those storms come rolling though, it creates a mess.”
Walcott has endured the mess associated with dirt lots long enough to know how bad it can be. He’s been with the county parks department for 15 years, with about eight of them at Land O’ Lakes Community Park.
Small improvements can make a big difference, and they can enhance the experience of visiting the park.
And, with all the bigger improvements ready to be unveiled to the public, he expects a lot more visitors in the future.
The improved fields are good for the park’s existing users like their adult softball league and Police Athletic League youth football. The latter will now have their home games at the park, instead of just using it as a practice facility.
In addition, the park now has a special event area that will be a gathering place for a variety of community events. Walcott sees movies in the park, a farmer’s market and company picnics as just some of the possible uses.
The annual Swampfest event, which was canceled last year due to a conflict with the park’s renovation schedule, is also back on for this November.
And with a potential addition in the future, the possibilities are even greater.
“We’re looking forward to possibly a stage being put out into the park, so we’ll be able to do concerts,” Walcott said.
That project is being spearheaded by the Heritage Park Foundation. And the group’s president, Sandy Graves, believes it would be an artistic feather in the park’s cap.
“I think it will complete that park,” Graves said.
The plan includes a structure that takes up around 2,000 square feet with a back room, electrical hookup and wide steps for people to bring up instruments or other bulky equipment.
The foundation would like to collaborate with local government to help raise funds for the project, which could exceed $150,000. For now, foundation members are raising money on their own, as they try to find a government partnership that works for everybody.
While the park will continue to thrive as a destination for local teams, Graves sees more opportunities for the park as a local hub of community activity.
“Sports is just one facet,” she said. “I think it’s good for the community to have a central gathering space where it can have the festivals that bring a community together.”
Meanwhile, the Land O’ Lakes Community Park is taking advantage of another construction project to enhance users’ experience. When Sanders Memorial Elementary School reopens later this year as the county’s first STEAM magnet school, its proximity to the park invites a natural sharing of facilities. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
They’ll be able to share event space, parking, basketball courts and other facilities.
That collaboration, as well as the existing renovations and potential future improvements, means the park will continue to maximize its resources. At just 16 acres, it’s not a large park, but the new layout will use the area efficiently.
“I think they came up with a great multi-use community park,” Walcott said. “As far as the size that we have here, I think everyone’s going to get something out of it.”
For now, it seems like everyone wants to hear about its progress. Walcott gets residents coming by every day asking about project updates and wanting to see how things are going. And he’s pleased to report that some facets of the park will be available within the next couple of weeks, and the fields are being prepared for use in the coming months. Soon residents will be able to enjoy the new amenities, like the walking trail, concession stand and event area.
And the parking, of course.
“It sounds ridiculous that I keep going back to the paved parking. But oh my goodness, that was the biggest thing. Just getting stuck in the mud,” Walcott said. “I know when people come out here and get a good look at the place, they’re really going to like it. They’re really going to enjoy being out here.”
Published June 10, 2015