Saturday, August 17, 2019

A Look at the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee


Coastal Breeze News’ six-part series on Marco Island’s advisory committees continues with a look at the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

Some might focus solely on what the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee is doing for the many school aged children on the island, but that would indeed be a mistake.

This committee gained a great deal of credibility over the last decade or so as they have thrown themselves into helping to bring two major projects to the forefront, as well as working in collaborative efforts alongside community organizations such as the Optimist Club, which provides many of the team sports for young Marco residents.

Modern day Marco is a vibrant and active community. From senior softball leagues, to tennis, golf racket ball, and now pickleball, we barely scratch the surface of adult activities.

The lack of community meeting room space was sorely in evidence at Mackle Park, and the existing building was in use 50% of the time by adults.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board worked hard to see a vision for a new Mackle Park Community Center turned into reality, as they would strive to replace the aging facility that was built in 1986 by Collier County. The three-decades old facility was woefully inadequate and was no longer meeting the community’s needs.

The committee became the educational arm of efforts to make the public aware of the many shortcomings of the old structure; the lack of ADA compliance, escalating repair costs and a lack of capacity to meet increasing demands from the community- both adults and children, including the grand children of Marco residents.

The debate over the need for the building would drag out over the years, but a referendum vote was held and on December 14, 2017 the ribbons were cut, the speeches given, and the doors were thrown open as the community took possession of their new community center.

Veterans Community Park

Aerial view of Veterans Community Park.

Once again it fell upon the committee of volunteer advisory board members to bring into focus the long-debated plans for the Veterans Community Park. Purchased for ten million dollars after a successful referendum in 2003, this last large piece of open space basically sat idle until 2009, when the first Veterans Community Park Master Plan was commissioned by the city council.

Using that plan, which included multiple meetings and the gathering of public input, the committee began pushing forward to get commitments from council to begin the process of allocating funds to complete the project.

However, the new council would now commission another look at the original plans, which were done by the same outside entity, Kimley-Horn out of Sarasota, Florida.

Once again, public meetings were held for the input of residents and numerous meetings with council would bring the process essentially back to the basic plan created in 2009, with some minor adjustments.

The committee has pushed to create a set of RFP documents to allow them and the city to get a better handle on possible costs to make the necessary upgrades to the park.

The next step will now lie with the creation of specification documents and solicit RFPs from legitimate builders.

The committee meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 3 PM in the council chambers on the city hall campus.

Should you have an interest in volunteering on this or any of the advisory groups you should email Laura Litzan, the City Clerk for Marco Island, at llitzan@cityofmarcoisland.com or visit the city’s website at www.cityofmarcoisland.com.

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