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CDD Selects New Play Equipment for Three Parks

Marking the next step in their extensive park improvement plans, CDD supervisors picked new playground equipment for Glencliff, Baybridge and their newly named Village Park at their Feb. 2 meeting.

Having selected three different equipment vendors for the parks at their January meeting, Westchase Community Development District (CDD) supervisors interviewed them and selected actual playground equipment. The play structures will eventually be installed at Westchase’s existing two large playgrounds while a new smaller playground, dubbed Village Park, will be constructed beside the West Park Village splash pad.

REP Services’ Scott Brushwood appeared to present his company’s suggested equipment for Village Park; John Ervin of APARK presented two options for Baybridge Park; and Ed Payer and Jeff Jones of Dynamo offered three options for Glencliff Park. At their January meeting CDD supervisors selected three different vendors to offer a variety of equipment while also selecting a fourth contractor to refurbish the splash area.

Tackling the smallest of the three parks, Brushwood suggested swings and one large piece of play equipment aimed at children 2 to 5, the age group expected to use the adjacent splash pad. The equipment, like that proposed by other vendors for Baybridge and Glencliff Parks, will comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. It will sit on a cushioned, rubberized surface rather than mulch. The main REP Services’ structure will allow young kids to climb and balance on a small, shaded structure while enjoying a small slide and swings. Supervisors approved the suggested equipment at an installed cost of $86,000. Color selection for the play structures was left to CDD staff and Stantec’s Neale Stralow, who developed the plan.

APARK’s two options for Baybridge Park both featured two large pieces of play equipment, with one piece geared for kids who are 2 to 5 and the second designed for kids who are 5 to 12. APARK’s two options simply differed on the style of the equipment for the older kids, with one featuring a climbing structure all at one level, and the second, selected by supervisors, featuring a taller, multileveled piece of play equipment. Its upper level features two slides, including a corkscrew pipe slide. Rounding out the Baybridge plan are swings shielded with a shade structure and a new climbing structure (Supervisors opted for a different climbing structure than the one depicted in the artist’s rendering for Baybridge’s equipment). It features two plexiglass climbing walls adjoined by rope netting that can also be scaled. The Baybridge playground colors will be earthtones that emphasize dark greens and browns similar to existing equipment. Supervisors also approved APARK’s bid for roughly $230,000.

Receiving the greatest discussion were Dynamo’s three options for Glencliff Park. Dynamo offers play equipment that differs from traditional playground equipment. Their structures emphasize cable-rope climbing and spinning over monkey bars, ladders and slides. Supervisors ultimately opted for the third option presented by Dynamo’s sales representative, Ed Payer, who argued it would create a significant wow factor for those passing the park. While visually more impressive than the earlier two options, the third came with a higher price tag, exceeding the original spending plan for Glencliff Park by $130,000.

In the corner of the Glencliff’s playground, Payer pitched a 60-foot long twisting and undulating aluminum pipe laced with cable-rope netting for climbing. Dynamo’s swings, perched on the park’s south side, also include a group swing that can simultaneously hold four children or adults. In place of a second climbing structure, supervisors instead opted for a structure called a Quad Pod. Shaped like a carousel, the Quad Pod’s rotating platform has additional spinning structures between its floor and top in which riders can stand and spin while rotating.

Ultimately approving Dynamo’s $340,000 bid, supervisors also discussed colors of the structures at length (they appeared to be leaning toward blues and reds, as suggested by Stralow) and debated whether a shade structure should be maintained over the large piece of climbing equipment. After both Payer and Stralow stated its visual impact would be lessened by the shade structure and CDD staff reminded supervisors of the existing shade provided by the park’s trees, supervisors opted not to shade it.  

At their meeting supervisors also heard from residents of the townhomes on New Parke Road between Belgrave and Sadler Way. The residents, led by Jeff Stoller of West Park Village, presented supervisors with a petition to address middle school kids and older teens who are hanging out at the adjacent park. Stoller and his fellow residents stated the kids were leaving behind trash, using bad language and vandalizing nearby homes. Older teens, they added, were hanging near the swing areas after dark and may be selling drugs to stopping cars. “Homeowners have observed groups of people using the park for questionable activity,” said Stoller.

The neighbors’ petition called for the district to cut back the trees and palmettos in the area and enhance the lighting by the parks’ swings so the teens could be seen. They also called for increased patrols of the area by the CDD’s off-duty deputy patrol and suggested nearby residents use the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office’s Tip 411 smartphone app to report suspicious activity.

Other residents complained of Davidsen Middle School students hanging out in the park, particularly after school on Fridays, and leaving behind litter and using vulgar language. “How do we stop that?” one asked.

Addressing residents’ concerns were Hillsborough County Deputy Hugh Alter, Westchase’s Community Resource Office, and Cpl. Kristian Gundersen, who oversees Westchase’s off-duty deputy patrol. Gundersen stated he recently recognized a boy caught on a homeowner’s video camera throwing a Starbucks drink onto a porch and arrested him. He added that the patrol has stepped up surveillance in the area but cannot arrest the teens if they are not doing anything illegal. Further, they cannot issue trespass warnings when the younger students gather on public sidewalks after school lets out.

When Supervisor Brian Ross inquired whether the older teens might be connected to three recent home burglaries on Royce Drive, Gundersen stated that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office recently arrested and charged another man with those burglaries. “He’s in jail. He’s not from this area,” he sated.

“What’s the solution?” asked CDD Chair Mark Ragusa, who then referred to the park’s bench swings. “Do we take down the equipment?”

Residents, however, stated they wanted to keep the bench swings in the park.

Turning to residents’ concerns over vulgar language used by the youngsters, Ragusa stated, “We’re not the moral police.” He added that some residents even demanded the removal of Glencliff Park’s basketball courts because some of the players used foul language there. The district, he pointed out, declined to do so.

“We did trim back the palmettos in there,” stated CDD Field Supervisor Doug Mays of the area behind the swings where residents stated the teens were gathering. Mays added, however, that the cutback prompted another resident of the neighborhood to complain that staff had gone too far.

Mays ultimately committed to asking TECO to install more lights in the area while Ragusa requested that CDD staff regularly check the area for trash. Cpl. Gundersen added he would maintain the additional patrols in the area. “Once they know we’re out there, they’re going to find another place to go,” he said.

In other actions:

Supervisors accepted their 2015 audit, which found no irregularities or adverse financial issues. Supervisor Greg Chesney added that the district added $710,000 in unspent funds into its fund balance, the bulk of which represents unspent assessments related to the park improvement plan.

Supervisors again discussed the possible transfer to the district of a large retention pond from M/I Homes, which is developing West Lake Townhomes off Sheldon Road. The pond lies adjacent to both Stonebridge and Sturbridge. Supervisors requested staff continue to work toward resolving transfer issues. These include M/I Homes removing cattails and other harmful invasive species from the lake prior to the district taking ownership and the completion of an agreement that would enable the district to address water quality issues arising from West Lake Townhomes’ smaller pond, which discharges into the larger lake.

Supervisors heard from Jessica Guercio, a representative of the MOMS Club who requested the district make an area of a park available for a neighborhood “free library,” essentially a book swap area. Supervisors gave tentative approval for the club to work with staff to establish a free library near the Village Park, located near West Park Village’s bell tower.

Supervisors tabled further action on bids related to updating their assessment methodology. The updates were triggered by the proposed David Weekley Home development in West Park Village (which hopes to rezone a parcel from commercial to residential) and an undeveloped parcel at the southern tip of Montague Street that has previously escaped district assessments. Supervisors decided to wait until David Weekley successfully rezones the land before moving forward with the methodology update.

CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte offered an overview of park rentals from 2015, stating that park pavilions had been rented at Baybridge and Glencliff Parks by 88 residents and 138 non-residents. Whyte also stated that staff was looking into the repair and replacement of some street signs and stop signs in Radcliffe and West Park Village and inquired how to book the charges so that those neighborhoods would pay for the work. 

Supervisors briefly discussed naming the new park in West Park Village after the late CDD Supervisor, Ernie Sylvester. While stating he had great respect for Sylvester and his contributions to Westchase, Ragusa added, “I have a hard time naming a park after a deceased person.” Ragusa instead asked staff to present an option of naming the large pavilion in Baybridge Park after Sylvester. That pavilion sits near a tree that memorializes Sylvester’s grandson, Jared Smith.

Ragusa closed by reminding staff that supervisors hoped to finalize park bids at their March meeting for items like bathroom remodeling, basketball courts and the re-grading and re-sodding of park fields.

Supervisors adjourned at 7:27 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted 4 February 2016

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