Almost ten years ago a committee of volunteers set out to create a conceptual plan for what a completed Veterans Community Park would look like someday. That conceptual plan was based upon the input of citizens who came together from 2008 and 2009 to discuss what the vision should be for the property that was purchased to protect that last available open space in the town center area for public use.
A decade later since that initial look at the property, and the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee is moving forward to take an updated look at that original conceptual plan in an attempt to solidify what capital requirements would be necessary to meet the community needs in 2018.
The city council has allocated $90,000 and let a contract for laying out the necessary improvements to the park to meet the needs of the community a decade since first looking at the property. The necessity for enhanced lighting, pathways, parking improvements and improved sanitary facilities are on their list of updates. They are also looking at the addition of a band shell for concerts in the park. Improvements in seating areas and upgrades in utilities that service the eight-acre area would also be considered.
“All of these items have to be taken into consideration,” said Advisory Committee Chairman Carlos Portu. “We are really not looking at major changes to what the vision was back ten years ago. Instead we are looking at costing those amenities and giving the community the opportunity to tell us what they see as priorities now in 2018,” continued Portu.
The city has begun staging concerts for the community within the park the last two years. In addition to those activities, the annual Marco Island Seafood Festival takes place there each year, as does the Irish Parade celebration, the YMCA has held community fairs at the park, the Christmas Island Style Committee moved the community Christmas Tree to the park about 10 years ago and holds at least two events there during the holiday season.
Marco Island veterans have also created one of the largest veterans’ memorials at the park, in addition to hosting the traveling Vietnam Wall of Honor there for two visits. They would host thousands of visitors for that emotional display of love and patriotism.
The Farmers Market is also held at the park on Wednesdays from November to April each year.
“There is a difference between having a conceptual vision and putting together a solid plan for moving forward, and we believe that is what the council would like to see,” said Portu.
That belief is not shared by all. Resident Ed Issler has brought forth the idea of having a referendum which would tie the hands of the committee from making any deviations from the 10 year old master plan. Issler sat on that committee a decade ago and may be bringing forth a referendum petition that would require the city to stick to the original plan.
“I think everyone in the community would like to have a solid plan for the park and the advisory board is committed to listening to them once again to insure we are giving them what they desire and have a solid plan moving forward,” said Portu.
Anyone wishing to review the original master plan for the Veterans Community Park may do so by visiting www.cityofmarcoisland.com/index.aspx?page=485.