Friday, January 21, 2022

Veterans Community Park: Creating a Community Vision


After years of discussions, surveys, public meetings and a relook at the original park Master Plan from almost a decade ago, the Marco Island Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) is prepared to come forward and make some definitive recommendations to the community and city council for the final design of Veterans Community Park.

“We’ve worked extremely hard to consider all points of view, including what would be the most feasible design moving forward,” said Committee Chairman Carlos Portu. “We’ve paid careful attention to the original Master Plan and what the community has been telling us over the years. We think we have something that will please all those competing desires,” continued Portu.

The following are some of the changes/enhancements to the park that have been suggested by residents:

  • Decent restroom facilities and providing accessibility to them for visitors to the passive park and memorial area when not in use for special events.
  • Either a band shell or an event plaza for placement of a temporary stage to accommodate performances when scheduled.
  • Perimeter parking around on Elkcam, Joy Circle and Park Avenue.
  • Improved electrical infrastructure to provide for festivals and special events.
  • Lighting which will not detract but enhance evening walks through the park.
  • Provide for improved shading and seating throughout the park along with some minimal interactive areas.
  • Maintain maximum greenspace.
  • Keep the pedestrian oriented nature of the area.
  • Providing a tie-in to the “mid-town district,” and looking for ways to integrate the flow between the two.

The city staff and the all-volunteer Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee has worked with Kimley-Horn, a design and planning consultant company from Sarasota, Florida to filter the multitude of suggestions and ideas to update the plan from 2009. Kimley-Horn had worked with the original committee almost a decade ago as they assembled their vision for the park.

The refreshed plan actually takes into consideration the majority of those design elements from 2009.

Some residents do not want any permanent structures within the park, so as to maximize the available greenspace. A permanent band shell might still be acceptable to some (but no other structures) and improved restrooms. Many have been vocal about not wanting to see a lot of “hardscape,” but instead, greenspace.

The community has expressed strong support for the popular farmer’s market, held on Wednesdays from fall to late spring within the park.

Another popular event supported by the community during the review process is the annual Marco Island Music and Seafood Festival, which is held in early spring. The proceeds from that event go to both the Marco Island Rotary and Kiwanis clubs to help to support their philanthropy efforts. A great deal of care was given to provide for that event in the overall designs.

Phased Development

The committee was pragmatic in regards to how to fund the project going forward, recognizing the need to be practical. It therefore was suggested that a “phased” process be implemented to allow for modules to be developed and to identify funding for such.

One suggestion was the use of “impact fees,” however it would have to be determined if those fees could in fact be utilized in that manner.

There are funds remaining from their original council grant two years ago which could be utilized for the creation of an RFP (Request for Proposal) to identify costs as of today for a “phased” approach and to determine the prioritization of those phases.

The original bond for the purchase of the property that is now Veterans Community Park is reaching its payoff anniversary and some have suggested a smaller construction bond to finish developing the park’s finalized vision.

The committee will bring their recommendations forward to the Marco Island City Council to update council on their progress and suggestions for moving forward.

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