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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED April 22, 2010
Saying they were never informed that a small plot of neighboring land was being proposed for a city park, an angry group of Harbor Acres and Bay Point Park residents asked the City Commission to rescind the request.
“We didn’t know this was going on,” said Wanda Rayle-Libby, who lives adjacent to the property in question.
The one-third acre parcel is located at 1150 S. Orange Ave., at the end of Bahia Vista Street. It sits at the confluence of three communities: Harbor Acres, Hudson Bayou and Bay Point Park, but officially resides in Harbor Acres. Hudson Bayou begins across the street.
It was a Hudson Bayou resident, Jennifer Mumford, who nominated the property for the county’s park-acquisition program, in which the county identifies land that it purchases and converts to a community park.
During a presentation last October before the Parks, Recreation and Environmental Protection Board, six residents spoke in favor of acquisition. None was from Harbor Acres.
“Those are people outside of our neighborhood claiming this was their neighborhood park,” said Kerry Kirschner, who lives 100 feet from the property in Bay Point Park.
The PREP board approved the request. It then went to the City Commission, and it also gave its approval.
The request now sits before the county and is just a few steps away from implementation.
On the nomination form, Mumford indicated that the parcel was a wetland and contained rare or listed species.
“That’s a lie,” said Kirschner. “It’s a landfill, not environmentally sensitive land by any stretch of the imagination. This is as underhanded as anything I’ve seen.”
Mumford said there was nothing underhanded about the nomination.
“It was not a selfish act,” she said. “It was an act to preserve greenspace. Nobody’s trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.”
She said Hudson Bayou neighbors just wanted to keep the view at the end of Bahia Vista Street.
“How anyone could make a sinister plot from that is amazing,” she said.
The opponents of the park say the vacant parcel already lures vagrants, and they say with no nearby parking, an already busy South Orange Avenue will become more dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists.
As to the issue of why Harbor Acres residents weren’t informed of the nomination, the city does not require neighbors to be notified of a park-acquisition request like it does for a development or code-change proposal.
That’s something that the city could change in the future, but if the commission does not rescind this request, that may not help the Harbor Acres and Bay Point Park residents who oppose the proposed park.
“It’s an abuse of the commission,” said Kirschner.
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].