Refurbished tennis courts, state-of-the art playground equipment and an increased presence of law enforcement officers are just a few examples of the many requests local residents have for the redevelopment of Zephyr Park.
Dozens of people gathered to offer their ideas for improvements at Zephyr Park, during a May 12 open house at the Alice Hall Community Center.
The Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency organized the public session to solicit public participation in developing the park’s master plan, which will be presented to the Zephyrhills Parks & Recreation Board and the City Council in August.
Representatives from Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. — the park’s design team — also were present to answer residents’ question on the planning process.
Residents were able to see several graphics featuring possible park amenities, such as various types of pavilions, public art displays, water splash pads and playgrounds.
Attendees also could fill out comment cards and provide priority rankings on park changes they’d like to see.
“What I really want to do is get an idea of what the residents want — to get a concept of it,” said Gail Hamilton, CRA director for Zephyrhills. “The citizens of Zephyrhills deserve an urban park as good as anything you would find in Tampa or in St. Pete.”
Hamilton said it’s critical for the city to have a “great park system” to help increase the value within the CRA district, which is a 520-acre area that essentially encompasses the center spine of the city, generally between Hercules Park to C Avenue, and from Zephyr Park to 17th Street.
“We are competing with Wesley Chapel, we are competing with every city in central Florida, so…by improving the park, people who live in this neighborhood, their homes become more valuable,” she explained.
“We could entice someone to build homes nearby that’s market rate, not low-income. So, we’re really looking to not only build a park, but also improve the surroundings around it,” Hamilton said.
She also said she’d like to see a few water features added to the park’s master plan to accentuate Zephyrhills’ branding as the “City of Pure Water.”
“We want to create this natural environment of what a creek in ‘real Florida’ or ‘natural Florida’ would look like…and return a portion of the park to its natural state,” Hamilton said, adding a children’s water park would be a nice addition, too.
The most popular topic, however, was the resurfacing of the park’s five tennis courts.
“The single most used thing in this park is the tennis courts,” said Fred Hall, who lives in East Pasco. “There’s not a thing on any of (the image) boards relating to the tennis courts. That’s the only thing I would use at this point. That’s what’s keeping this park alive is those tennis courts, and nobody even addresses that in this survey that they’re doing, which is sad.”
Hall added the courts are currently almost unplayable due to the number of “lumps and cracks” that have popped up over time.
“We spend our money in this town,” he said. “If they get much worse, all the people that are playing here, they’ll go spend all their money going someplace else.”
That’s what one Zephyrhills family already does.
Brad Bricker said he regularly takes his four children to Common Ground Park in Lakeland, referring to that park as a “destination to go to.”
“Common Ground is such a fun park because the adults are playing, the kids are playing, there’s stuff where everybody wants to get on the equipment and play,” Bricker said. “Their tennis courts actually have a pro shop and a place where they can actually have tennis events. I see something like that happening, where there’s actually tennis competitions happening and more new-age, modernized-type equipment.”
He continued, “(Zephyr Park) has tennis courts, but there’s not really anything happening with them in that sense. If there was a stadium-style tennis court here, you could bring in events…and have a park where people want to drive from other areas to come to.”
Bricker added the park “definitely needs” some new features, whatever they may be.
“It is pretty much outdated,” he said. “Even the newer equipment they’ve put in over the years is kind of…fading and dilapidated.”
Another Zephyrhills resident, Lani Prilliman, is glad the city is finally getting around to improving the park. She said she’d like to see to more law enforcement and lighting at night to curb suspicious activity she’s witnessed.
“There’s been some issues in the evenings,” Prilliman said.
However, Prilliman sees the park’s long-term potential.
“It is a diamond in the rough,” she said. “The park just needs some updating and some sprucing up. I’ve been here a long time, and the park seems to not get much attention.”
While the CRA and park’s design team will consider the residents’ suggestions, Hamilton emphasized that a park with significant amenities could attract hundreds of people into Zephyrhills every day.
“I’m trying to do a great urban park and not just a park for 20 people,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said she plans to seek state grants, corporate sponsorships and find out what kind of funding the city can provide, to determine a budget for the master plan.
Published May 25, 2016