As the redevelopment plan for Hercules Park in Zephyrhills presses forward, at least one resident stakeholder is raising “strong concerns” with its preliminary conceptual plan.
At issue is a portion of the plan that calls for a BMX (bicycle motocross) track, where mountain bike enthusiasts could traverse jumps and obstacles across a circuitous riding trail.
Dade City resident Kimberly Barker raised questions about how youths wanting to access the trail would be able to ride their bikes safely through the city’s congested roadways to get to the attraction.
Her remarks came during the public comment period of a Nov. 29 Zephyrhills City Council regular meeting at Zephyrhills City Hall.
An initial rough conceptual sketch plan shows a circuitous riding trail covering roughly 5.29 acres on the southwest corner of the property. There’s also a proposal to build a more traditional multi-use path that surrounds the perimeter of the mountain bike course to accommodate walkers, joggers and casual bike riders.
Barker — a real estate broker for VITIS Realty — pointed to the busy street traffic that surrounds the 12-acre park property, at the corner of County Road 54 and Gall Boulevard, next to Zephyrhills High and Woodland Elementary schools.
She observed the bustle is only going to grow, as high density residential development makes its way down Eiland Boulevard, as well as west and north of that area.
“Having an amenity there that draws bicyclists and pedestrian traffic, specifically, young pedestrian traffic, to cross what is one of the largest intersections in the city of Zephyrhills, is of great concern to me,” said Barker, a lifelong East Pasco resident and a graduate of Zephyrhills High School.
“I just wanted to speak tonight to voice that concern, and ask the city to maybe pump the brakes a little bit and let’s reevaluate what we’re doing with that property, and what’s going to add the greatest value to the community,” she said.
She also raised another concern — the transients and homeless people who are regularly on the park’s premises.
The speaker told council members she visited the site a couple weeks ago and documented the issue with photos on her cellphone.
“I’d like to see the city do something with that property that is maybe going to eliminate that problem right next to the elementary school, and I don’t know that the current plan is going to do that,” she said.
Meanwhile, Barker encouraged the city develop a citizens advisory committee to oversee the park development, as well as other projects and initiatives.
Council President Alan Knight thanked the speaker for her concerns and feedback.
Knight emphasized that “nothing has absolutely, totally been finalized” yet on the park’s forthcoming features and amenities, so additional citizen comments are welcome.
“Any input you would like to give, we would certainly appreciate it, but we are really finalizing it down, and just on the first couple of looks, it looks pretty nice, and I will think when it gets through, you will really like it,” he said.
Knight added the homeless population inhabiting the park is nothing new, estimating this has been an ongoing dilemma for some 30 years. “The transients and so forth have been a problem on that property,” he said. “It’s always been that way.”
This isn’t the first time reservations have been raised about a BMX track within the park property.
Zephyrhills Mayor Gene Whitfield raised objections to the amount of land being used for the BMX concept, during an Oct. 25 city council meeting.
“It just seems like a lot of the project is going to that, a lot of the land area. We could do multiple things in there, or a couple of things,” Whitfield said, at the time.
Addressing the issue during this latest November meeting, Zephyrhills City Manager Billy Poe said he’s had conversations with Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) Director Gail Hamilton on significantly “shrinking” the BMX course layout.
“We’ve heard council loud and clear, and citizens have been pretty clear about it as well, so we’re taking a hard look at that,” Poe said. “There is a way to condense it down considerably, and so we’re looking at that, and that’ll be brought back through the whole process.”
In October, city council granted a contract for the park’s design and construction document services with engineering firm Kimley-Horn, in the amount of $292,985.
Published December 08, 2021